The Treasury Department is moving forward with an effort to put abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the new $20 bill after the effort was delayed indefinitely by the Trump administration in 2019.
"The Treasury Department is taking steps to resume efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the front of the new $20 notes," said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday. "It's important that our notes, our money … reflect the history and diversity of our country and Harriet Tubman's image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that."
In a statement provided to CBS News, a Treasury Department spokesperson echoed those remarks, calling Tubman a "role model for leadership and participation in our democracy."
The renewed effort comes after former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced nearly two years ago that the redesign proposed under former President Obama would not happen under the Trump administration. Mnuchin said it was a "nonpolitical situation," and the primary reason was to prevent counterfeit money. At the time, Mnuchin suggested changing the way the bill looked would not come up again until 2026, and it would not be circulated until 2028.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, who had been championing the effort to put women on money since it was proposed by the Obama administration in 2015, said at the time that the postponement was "unacceptable."
"I've led efforts in the Senate for years to get this done," Shaheen tweeted Monday after the White House said efforts would move forward. "The Trump admin dragged their feet w/o explanation. Ready to help the Biden admin see this through so we can finally give Harriet Tubman the honor & recognition she long deserves."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday also applauded the move.
"I'm glad the Biden administration is reversing the Trump administration's foot dragging," Schumer said on the Senate floor. "This is the kind of things they did. No excuse, no reason, just didn't do it."
In May 2016, former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced Tubman would be featured on the front of the $20, replacing President Andrew Jackson. Jackson would then be featured on the back of the bill along with an image of the White House. The announcement came after a 10-month period when the Treasury Department solicited feedback on who should grace the notes.
There are several elements that could cause the redesign to take some time, especially given the $20 notes' high circulation among consumers. Security features to protect against counterfeiting are a factor in the timing. A high-speed printing facility is needed to meet production standards. And there needs to be time to test the new features.
First published on January 25, 2021 / 4:28 PM