Republicans in the Senate and House have proposed legislation that would prevent Congress from authorizing new commemorative coins that raise millions of dollars for the groups they are commemorating, a practice that a GOP senator was noted in recent press reports for using excessively.
The Commemorative Coins Reform Act was introduced by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashDemocrats defend Afghan withdrawal amid Taliban advance Vietnam shadow hangs over Biden decision on Afghanistan Kamala Harris and our shameless politics MORE (R-Mich.), partly in reaction to news that Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkBiden's relationship with 'Joe-Joe' Manchin hits the rocks Let's fix America's accounting problem — starting with Build Back Better Duckworth announces reelection bid MORE (R-Ill.) successfully pushed through a few commemorative-coin bills that benefited a lobbying firm connected to his former girlfriend.
Under the current practice, commemorative coins can be authorized by Congress in legislation that usually allows a surcharge to be assessed on each coin. Money raised through that surcharge benefits the group that is being commemorated by the coin.
In June, The Wall Street Journal reported that Kirk had authored several of these bills, many of which were for clients of Arcadian Partners, a lobbying group. The Journal story reported that Arcadian was paid $54,000 by the March of Dimes to lobby for a commemorative coin, and also that Kirk's former girlfriend had been employed at Arcadian.
Press reports also noted that Kirk successfully passed other coin bills that raised several million dollars for the groups being honored.
DeMint and Amash referred to that story, and said it shows that the current way of approving commemorative coins can make it too much like a congressional earmark that members can put forward to benefit certain groups.
"Congress has done great work on eliminating earmarks, but commemorative coins have become a way for politicians to continue steering federal benefits to favored projects," DeMint said.
"Congress found yet another way to circumvent the earmark ban with commemorative coins," Amash said. "Organizations shouldn't receive special treatment because of their D.C. connections. It's far beyond the proper role of the federal government to act as the sales agent for private groups."
The bill from DeMint and Amash would use the surcharge to pay for the coin program, and use any extra money raised to pay down the deficit. DeMint said commemorative coins should not be a "money-maker" for private entities.
The Senate bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnBiden and AOC's reckless spending plans are a threat to the planet NSF funding choice: Move forward or fall behind DHS establishes domestic terror unit within its intelligence office MORE (R-Okla.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamKyrsten Sinema's courage, Washington hypocrisy and the politics of rage Hillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two McConnell will run for another term as leader despite Trump's attacks MORE (R-S.C.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonI'm furious about Democrats taking the blame — it's time to fight back Barnes raises over million in final quarter of 2021 Sen. Ron Johnson: Straight from the horse's mouth MORE (R-Wis.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSchumer ramps up filibuster fight ahead of Jan. 6 anniversary Juan Williams: The GOP is an anti-America party Manchin faces pressure from Gillibrand, other colleagues on paid family leave MORE (R-Utah), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainRedistricting reform key to achieving the bipartisanship Americans claim to want Kelly takes under-the-radar approach in Arizona Senate race Voting rights, Trump's Big Lie, and Republicans' problem with minorities MORE (R-Ariz.) and Jim RischJames Elroy RischBiden huddles with group of senators on Ukraine-Russia tensions Republicans say Mayorkas failed to deliver report on evacuated Afghans Ukraine president, US lawmakers huddle amid tensions with Russia MORE (R-Idaho). The House bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.).