Portrait of Harriet Tubman, taken by Benjamin F. Powelson circa 1868-1869. (Photo courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division)
WASHINGTON (AP) - The redesign of the $20 bill meant to feature 19th century abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman will not be happening in 2020, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Mnuchin said Wednesday that the $20 redesign has been put on hold in favor of redesigning the $10 and $50 bills first due to concerns about counterfeiting, elaborating that the redesign was being done to introduce new security features that would make it harder to replicate the bills.
“It is my responsibility to focus on the issue of counterfeiting and the security features,” Mnuchin said during an appearance before the House Financial Services Committee.
The Tubman $20 bill's fate had been in doubt since the 2016 campaign, however, based on critical comments by then-candidate Donald Trump, who branded the move an act of "pure political correctness."
During the same campaign, Trump praised Andrew Jackson, who is currently represented on the $20 bill, for his "history of tremendous success" and suggested that Tubman could be placed on a different bill, such as the rarely-used $2 bill.
The decision to replace Andrew Jackson, the nation's seventh president, with Tubman, famous for spiriting hundreds of slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad, had been made by Mnuchin's predecessor, former Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, who served in the Obama administration.
Lew had originally proposed to put a woman on the $10 bill, which would have replaced the image of Alexander Hamilton, but public outcry made him change his mind. Opponents to this change, a group bolstered by the popular Broadway musical, “Hamilton,” felt it would be wrong to remove Hamilton from U.S. currency.
The Obama administration had planned for the redesigned $20 bill featuring Tubman to be released in 2020 to mark the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote, but Mnuchin made it clear during his appearance before the House Financial Services Committee that the release would not happen by that date.
Representative Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., who initiated the line of questioning about the $20 redesign, pointed out to Mnuchin, “Currently our currency does not reflect the diversity of people who have contributed to our great American history.”
Given the Treasury's updated timeline for production, Mnuchin said the design for the new $20 bill won't be released until 2028, and therefore the final design for the bill will not be announced until 2026.
Mnuchin would not give his personal opinion as to whether or not he supported the Tubman redesign, saying only that the decision will be left up to whomever is serving as treasury secretary in 2026.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.