Despite Unrest, Treasury Dept. Has No Plans to Speed Tubman to the $20 Note

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has no plans to unveil a new $20 bill this year bearing the image of Harriet Tubman — a former slave, abolitionist and “conductor” on the Underground Railroad — despite nationwide calls to correct longstanding racial injustices that have fueled protests in recent weeks.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday that a new $20 bill would not be released until 2030 and that a future secretary would make the decision about whether Andrew Jackson would be replaced as the face of the note.

Mr. Mnuchin called it a “myth” that he was delaying the change, despite the fact that the Obama administration had initiated a timeline that would have had the Treasury Department unveil a design of the bill in 2020, the centennial of the 19th Amendment establishing women’s suffrage.

In a news briefing, the Treasury secretary said that redesigning the currency required developing complicated anticounterfeiting technology and a new printing process, which takes many years.

“This is something that is in the distant future,” Mr. Mnuchin said.

Asked if the process should be accelerated in response to recent unrest, Mr. Mnuchin said that the currency timelines were set by career officials in an extensive interagency process. The $10 bill is next to be redesigned and released in 2026, and Mr. Mnuchin indicated that he had no intention of replacing Alexander Hamilton, the first Treasury secretary, on that bill.

A Treasury Department spokesperson noted that the 2030 timeline was set before 2015 by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the Federal Reserve Board and the Secret Service. They decided to redesign the $10 and the $50 first because the $20 is the standard A.T.M. note. Because it has the highest volume of the three, it requires robust security features and sufficient time to make those security changes.

Mr. Mnuchin demurred as to whether he personally believed Tubman should ever be added to the $20.

“I’m not going to comment on it because, as I’ve said, it’s not going to be my decision,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “It’s going to be a Treasury secretary’s decision in the future.”

Mr. Mnuchin did compare changing the money to altering monuments in Washington, but then was careful to say that he was not taking any position on the matter.

President Trump has expressed his opposition to removing monuments or renaming military facilities that pay homage to the United States’ history of racism. As a candidate in 2016, he said that he did not believe that Tubman should replace Jackson, who was a slave owner, and called the idea “pure political correctness.”

Last year, Mr. Mnuchin faced a backlash from Democrats when he said that there would not be an unveiling of a new $20 bill design in 2020, pointing to security reasons. The New York Times unearthed a preliminary design last June of a $20 note that included an image of Tubman that was produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, suggesting that some work on the design had been underway.

The Treasury Department’s inspector general agreed last year to investigate the handling of the currency redesign after a request by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader. The review is part of a broader audit of the bureau’s process for designing new notes and security features. A report is expected to be released this summer.

Although the Obama administration had announced the plans for a Tubman note with great fanfare and said that the design would be unveiled in 2020, the Treasury Department has maintained that such a plan was never realistic.

“We have always had a policy of not releasing images until six months or so prior to the bill coming out,” Mr. Mnuchin said on Thursday. “We have not changed any of this.”


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