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Harriet Tubman Won’t Be on the $20 Bill Anytime Soon

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is too busy with "security."

by Emma Ockerman
May 22 2019, 8:18pm

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told Congress Wednesday that he’s too busy fighting the spread of fake money to spend time putting the first African-American — and first woman — on U.S. paper currency.

The Trump administration inherited an Obama-era plan to put abolitionist and freed slave Harriet Tubman on a new version of the $20 bill by 2020. Her image would replace that of former President Andrew Jackson, the slave owner whose policies led to the Trail of Tears. Now, the largely uncontroversial redesign could be on hold until at least 2026.

“The primary reason we have looked at redesigning the currency is for counterfeiting issues,” Mnuchin told the House Financial Services Committee, moments after agreeing with Rep. Ayanna Pressley that diversity in imagery is important.

“It is my responsibility now to focus on what is now the issue of counterfeiting and the security features,” Mnuchin said. “Right now, I am focused on the security features of the U.S. currency.”

The Obama administration announced the Tubman redesign in 2016 after public feedback on modernizing the images on U.S. currency. Its unveiling was supposed to be tied to the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote on Aug. 18, 1920.

“Our currency does not reflect the diversity of individuals who have contributed to our great American history,” Pressley said.

As she started to push back on Mnuchin missing the 2020 deadline, the treasury secretary wouldn’t say whether he supports Tubman’s image on the $20 bill.

“I have made no decision as it relates to that,” Mnuchin said. “My decision is focused on security features.”

Mnunchin’s announcement isn’t the first time the administration has waffled on the redesign.

Trump has defended Jackson and once said that the former president was “tough” but had a “big heart.” Trump also said he considered the redesign “pure political correctness.”

Cover image: United States Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnunchin returned to testify before the House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., U.S. on May 22, 2019. (Credit: Stefani Reynolds / CNP | usage worldwide Photo by: Stefani Reynolds/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)