Heard on the Hill

Roy Blunt pitches Negro League coin idea

Congress has authorized more than 150 commemorative coins since 1892. Will this be the next?

Sen. Roy Blunt pushed for a new commemorative coin as he visited the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in his home state of Missouri this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Roy Blunt wants a commemorative coin to honor Negro League Baseball when it celebrates its 100 year anniversary in 2020.

The Missouri Republican talked about his coin push during a tour of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, this week.

Before Jackie Robinson made his 1947 debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, tearing down Major League Baseball’s stubborn racial barrier, black players were confined to the Negro Leagues. Robinson himself played for the Kansas City Monarchs.

Blunt, along with Sen. Tim Kaine and Reps. Emanuel Cleaver II and Steve Stivers, introduced the Negro Leagues Baseball Centennial Commemorative Coin Act in July. The bill would direct the U.S. Treasury Department to mint a coin commemorating the centennial.

“From Jackie Robinson to Satchel Paige to Buck O’Neil, several of baseball’s most iconic players began their professional careers in the Negro Leagues,” Blunt said after introducing the bill. “The talent, excitement, and sportsmanship they brought to the game helped break down the barriers of segregation.”

The league was formed in 1920 during a meeting of team owners at a YMCA in Kansas City. Before that, teams traveled the country searching for others to play, with no structure or schedule.

The Negro Leagues Museum has been around for almost 30 years. During that time the museum has welcomed more than 2 million visitors, it says. And in 2006, Congress granted it the distinction of “America’s National Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.”

Blunt has previously taken to the Senate floor to honor his state’s baseball history, particularly the Monarchs, who won two championships in their 37-year history.

“It’s sad because of the segregated elements of it,” he said. “But it’s a great story because of the entrepreneurship and the sportsmanship and the competitive nature of that league.”

The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee requires at least 67 co-sponsors before it considers any commemorative coin bill or resolution. The House Financial Services Committee does not have a similar co-sponsor requirement.

Congress has authorized 152 commemorative coins since 1892, according to the Congressional Research Service. But in 1939 Congress halted the program because a glut of commemorative coins led to a decline in their market value and Treasury was concerned the surplus might lead to counterfeiting.

Congress reinstated the commemorative program in 1982, and since then 91 commemorative coins have been authorized. Since 1998, only two coins may be authorized for any given year.

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