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Biden administration moving ahead with plan to put Harriet Tubman on $20 bill

The Biden administration is "exploring ways to speed up" efforts to have Harriet Tubman's face appear on new $20 bills after it was delayed by the Trump administration.
/ Source: TODAY

The Treasury Department is "taking steps to resume efforts" toward putting Harriet Tubman on the front of new $20 bills after it had previously been delayed until at least 2028, the White House announced Monday.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at Monday's briefing that the new administration under President Joe Biden is looking to speed up the process after Trump administration officials announced in 2019 that the new bills would most likely not happen for seven more years.

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The Biden administration is looking to speed up the process of Harriet Tubman appearing on the $20 bill after it was pushed back by the Trump administration. U.S. Department of the Treasury

"It's important that our notes, our money — if people don't know what a note is — reflect the history and diversity of our country," Psaki said. "And Harriet Tubman's image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that."

The administration is "exploring ways to speed up that effort," but Psaki noted any specifics would come from the Department of the Treasury.

There has been a five-year effort to have the bills feature the face of the abolitionist, Underground Railroad hero and former slave who risked her life to rescue dozens of slaves in the 1800s.

The redesigned $20 bill featuring Tubman was first announced in 2016 by former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew after the department spent 10 months soliciting input from the public about which figure should grace a new bill.

"The decision to put Harriet Tubman on the new $20 was driven by thousands of responses we received from Americans young and old," Lew said in 2016. "I have been particularly struck by the many comments and reactions from children for whom Harriet Tubman is not just a historical figure, but a role model for leadership and participation in our democracy."

An online poll that began in 2015 received more than 100,000 votes in favor of replacing President Andrew Jackson with Tubman on the $20 bill.

Former President Donald Trump opposed the change during his 2016 presidential campaign, calling it "pure political correctness" and proposed putting Tubman's face on the $2 bill instead.

The new bill featuring Tubman was originally planned to be unveiled last year, but former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced in May 2019 that the design process was delayed and no new imagery would be unveiled until 2028.

The rollout of the new Harriet Tubman bills was supposed to coincide with last year's 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

"The primary reason we have looked at redesigning the currency is for counterfeiting issues,” Mnuchin said during a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee. "Based upon this, the $20 bill will now not come out until 2028. The $10 bill and the $50 bill will come out with new features beforehand."

In June 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi labeled the delay "an insult to the hopes of millions that the Trump Administration is refusing to honor Harriet Tubman on our $20 bill" and called for it to be reversed.