WASHINGTON – The House on Wednesday made sure that Thomas Jefferson's home won't permanently lose its place on the back of the nickel to his favorite adventurers, Lewis and Clark.
Under a bill that passed 412-5, the U.S. Mint was given the go-ahead to change the image on the back side of the nickel over the next three years to commemorate the bicentennial of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase and the 1804-06 Lewis and Clark expedition.
In 2006 Monticello, Jefferson's home, will return.
Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., who sponsored the bill, said Mint officials came to his office last summer with plans to replace Monticello, which is located in his district near Charlottesville, with images of America's western expansion. "The folks of Monticello and people in Virginia got very upset," he said.
Under Cantor's proposal, Jefferson, who made the Louisiana Purchase and was the force behind the Lewis and Clark expedition, would remain on the front side of the coin.
The legislation passed the House last summer but was not taken up by the Senate.
Michael White, a spokesman for the Mint, declined to comment on the House action, saying only that the Mint is continuing to work with Congress on the bill. The Mint also plans a 2004 Lewis and Clark commemorative silver dollar.
Cantor said his bill, which now goes to the Senate, also creates a citizen's advisory group to make recommendations to the secretary of the Treasury on future changes to U.S. coinage.
He said the main purpose of the group would be to help "avoid the Sacagawea experience," referring to the dollar coin issued in 2000 carrying the image of the Shoshone woman who helped guide Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Ocean. Like some other dollar coins, it has failed to catch on with the American public.