Attacking Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin from the steps of the Treasury Department in Washington on Thursday, Democratic leaders demanded that President Donald Trump put legendary abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 following Mnuchin’s decision to indefinitely delay the bill’s introduction.
The original decision to replace Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the U.S., with Tubman on the $20 bill had been made by Mnuchin’s predecessor, former Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, who had served in the Obama administration. The deadline had been set for 2020 — the centennial celebration of the enactment of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women’s right to vote.
“As one of the earliest advocates in Congress for placing a woman on the $20, I was not only appalled, I was angry with Secretary Mnuchin’s lackluster response, so I immediately reintroduced H.R. 3082 to require the Treasury Department to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill,” Ohio Rep. Joyce Beatty said, referring to Mnuchin’s May testimony before House Committee on Financial Services.
“More than one million people — black, white, brown, young and old — voted that we put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill,” she said. “So today, we refuse to turn our backs on what the will of the American people have decided.”
Beatty vowed to fight Mnuchin and the Trump administration.
“We do not accept his response; we do not accept that it is not political. We know what it is, a black woman who fought for freedom [for] others, and that is why it is very personal to me,” she said.
She was joined by Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer. “If you come to my office, the majority leader’s office of the United States House of Representatives, you will see two pictures, hanging on the walls, of Harriet Tubman. She deserves those places of honor in my office.”
“But America needs to recognize her courage, and the 13 dangerous trips she took to save others, because she knew being free herself was not enough,” he said. “And so she went back time, after time, after time, at great personal risk, to make sure that others could be free.”
Hoyer said Tubman’s character was one major reason to honor her.
“It is time. It is long past time,” Hoyer said. “But it is never too late to do the right thing. So, I urge the secretary, I urge the president of the United States: Pick up your phone, Mr. President. Call Secretary Mnuchin and say, ‘Mr. Secretary, this is the right thing to do for America.’ Make it happen.”
“America will be a better place with Tubman on the 20.”
Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley tore into both Mnuchin and Trump.
“Secretary Mnuchin has allowed Trump’s racism and misogyny to prevent him from carrying out the will of the people,” she said. “Mnuchin, like so many others in this disgraceful administration, continues to behave as if his job is to satisfy the president and not to serve the American people.”
Pressley says she sent a letter to Mnuchin giving him until July 1 to explain why the implementation of Tubman on the $20 had been pushed back.
Reps. Katherine Clark, Karen Bass, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Lois Frankel, Brenda Lawrence, Anthony Brown and Jamie Raskin were also at the news conference.
The Treasury Department’s inspector general said Monday that it would review the Trump administration’s decision to delay putting Tubman on the $20 amid increased, passionate calls for the agency to do so.
Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is one such voice. Earlier in June, he urged Mnuchin to reconsider delaying the redesign to feature abolitionist leader.
In a letter to Mnuchin, the governor wrote that he hopes the U.S. Treasury Department would “join our efforts to promptly memorialize Tubman’s life and many achievements.”
Tubman was born on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She escaped from slavery to become a leading abolitionist and helped other slaves escape through the Underground Railroad.
“Harriet Tubman’s countless contributions to our nation transcend race, gender, nationality, and religion,” Hogan wrote. “She dedicated her life in selfless service to others and to the cause of freedom. Her unbelievable acts of heroism, courage, and sacrifice have more than earned her rightful place among our nation’s most pivotal leaders. She deserves this honor.”
He added, “I am incredibly disappointed to hear that now, citizens across Maryland and the country will instead have to wait nearly a decade for this new bill to reach general circulation.”
Mnuchin said last month that the delay had been prompted by the decision to redesign the $10 bill and the $50 bill first for security reasons to make it harder to counterfeit the bills. He said those bills will now be introduced before a redesigned $20 bill. He also said the redesigned $20 bill will not come out until 2028, which, he said, means that a final design for that bill will not be announced until 2026.
The New York Times released a report saying that, despite Mnuchin’s assertions otherwise, the Trump administration likely could have met the original 2020 deadline.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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