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Congress passes Civil Rights dollar

The lame duck Congress made another numismatic surprise move Nov. 19 by sending a bill calling for the 2014 issue of a silver dollar in commemoration of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on to the President. 

The House version passed on the unanimous consent calendar on April 1, and the measure had been pending in the Sentate without likely hope of passage ever since.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., is the Senate sponsor, of the companion measure; among the cosponsors are heavy hitters like president-elect Barack Obama, D-Ill., former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, D-Mass., former vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman, I- Conn., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D.-Nev.

 The bill would require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint silver dollar coins “in commemoration of the semicentennial of the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

 The coin specs: not more than 350,000 $1 coins with a $10 surcharge to be used by the United Negro College Fund.

Starting with 42 co-sponsors, the author of the bill cleared for the President’s signature is Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a
genuine article for this field. With personal appeals over a period of a year, he wound up with 313 cosponsors or more than 70 percent of the membership of the United States House of Representatives.

During the height of the Movement, from 1963 to 1966, Lewis was named chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which he helped form. SNCC was largely responsible for organizing student activism in the Movement, including sit-ins and other activities.

His Congressional Web site quotes Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in 2007: “I’ve seen courage in action on many occasions. I can’t say I’ve seen anyone possess more of it, and use it for any better purpose and to any greater effect, than John Lewis.”

 The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has called Lewis “the conscience of the U.S. Congress.”

Lewis credited his colleague, Rep. Deborah Pryce, R- Ohio, former coinage subcommittee chair, with moving the bill along.

Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., floor managed the bill all the while paying tribute to 11-term congressman Lewis, who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee. This played a role since new rules now require Ways and Means to sign off on coinage proposals that raise money for nonprofit groups.

Other coin measures that are not acted on by the time the 110th Congress adjourns die and must start the process again.

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