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McConnell Once Wanted Reagan on $10 Bill, Now Says Replacing Hamilton Is 'Terrible Idea'

McConnell says taking Alexander Hamilton off the $10 bill to make way for a woman is a "terrible idea." In 2004, he talked up doing the same to make room for Ronald Reagan. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When Ronald Reagan died, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., proposed replacing Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill with the Republican president. But McConnell slammed the Treasury Department's plan to replace Hamilton to make room for a woman when asked about it Tuesday.  

"A really bad idea, which is not to say that some woman or women in American history shouldn’t be honored, but the last person who ought to be removed from currency is the person who basically founded the American banking system and created the financial system for the United States, Alexander Hamilton," McConnell said in a local TV interview .  

"If there is anybody who is totally appropriate to be on some of our currency it’d be Alexander Hamilton, so I think removing him is a terrible idea," he continued.  

"This is not about whether or not we should honor women who were important in American history. The question is whether you want to kind of take Hamilton off of the currency. The most appropriate honor I can think of is to have Alexander Hamilton on some American currency."  

McConnell had the same "terrible idea" back in 2004, in the wake of Ronald Reagan's death, when Republicans floated everything from Reagan on the dime to the $10 bill to the $20 to a dollar coin then-Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said should be called "The Ronnie."  

McConnell apparently didn't act on his proposal or even introduce a bill back in 2004. And spokesman Don Stewart said the senator changed his mind in the interim.  

"While the Leader believes you can (and should) add an historic woman to currency, you don't need to remove Hamilton to do it," Stewart said in an email. "He believes it was a mistake 11 years ago to call for replacing Hamilton."  

But in 2004, Hamilton was seen as easier to replace because he wasn't a president, according to press accounts from the time.  

Some 25 House Republicans sponsored a bill in 2004 by then-Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., to replace Hamilton with Reagan, including Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, now the Financial Services chairman. The idea never came up for a vote.  

Hensarling, meanwhile, issued a neutral statement about the Obama administration's idea when the announcement was made.  

“As chairman of the committee with jurisdiction over the production of our currency, I look forward to hearing more from the Treasury Secretary about this announcement," Hensarling said. "However, by running up the national debt to more than $18 trillion, the administration’s spending policies put these dollars at risk of being worth less no matter whose face is on them.”  

McConnell is far from the only one who thinks demoting Hamilton is a terrible idea; Ben Bernanke recently penned a column saying he was "appalled" by the plan and suggested replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill instead. (An outside group had also pushed for a woman on the $20. )  

Treasury's plan would still keep Hamilton somewhere on the $10 bill — so he wouldn't be totally wiped from the currency.  

Related:

Republicans Propose Putting Reagan on the Currency

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