WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that a decision by his predecessor, former Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, to put African American abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill would be delayed and will not happen in 2020.
He said that the redesigns were being made to protect the currency from counterfeiters and that other denominations had been deemed more critical to being redesigned than the $20 bill.
He said currently the decision on whether to put Tubman on the $20 in place of Andrew Jackson would likely not be considered until 2026 and take effect until 2028. Even if President Donald Trump wins a second term and Mnuchin remained as Treasury secretary, Trump's second term would end in January 2025.
Trump during the 2016 campaign had criticized putting Tubman on the $20 in place of Jackson.
New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who backed a campaign to put a female face on a $20 bill by 2020, said there's no excuse for the eight-year delay announced by the treasury secretary.
Shaheen, a Democrat, said the delay sends an "unmistakable message to women and girls, and communities of color."
She recently reintroduced the Harriet Tubman Tribute Act to honor women on the nation's currency. The goal was to get the bills out in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote.
In 2017, Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both Maryland Democrats, pressed Mnuchin to move forward with Lew’s decision.
"Tubman is fully deserving of this honor," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Mnuchin. "Those we honor on currency make a statement about our nation and our values.”
Mnuchin said, in 2017, “we will be looking at this issue. It's not something that I'm focused on at the moment.”
In February, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Democrat, and Rep. John Katko, a New York Republican, reintroduced legislation to require the Treasury Department to put Tubman on the $20 bill.
“Too often, our nation does not do enough to honor the contributions of women in American history, especially women of color. Placing Harriet Tubman on our U.S. currency would be a fitting tribute to a woman who fought to make the values enshrined in our Constitution a reality for all Americans," Cummings said in a statement.
A spokeswoman said at the time Mnuchin’s position remained the same. She added that “the primary focus when changing the currency is on developing new security features to prevent counterfeiting.”