Democratic lawmakers on Thursday called on the Trump administration to commit to the Treasury Departments’ original deadline to release a new $20 bill featuring activist and abolitionist Harriet Tubman.
“This is about parity. This is about representation. This is about justice,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) told reporters. “And this is about the fact that more than white men built this country.”
She was part of a group of Democratic leaders ― largely of color ― who gathered in front of the Department of Treasury in Washington, D.C., to urge Secretary Steve Mnuchin to complete the plan to put abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 note by its original 2020 deadline. At a hearing last month, Mnuchin announced the bill wouldn’t be finished until 2026 and may not be in circulation until 2028.
On Monday, the Treasury Department’s internal watchdog announced it would launch an investigation into the delays following backlash and letters from Democratic leaders. The review is being included in a pre-scheduled audit by the acting Inspector General of the Treasury Rich Delmar.
Delmar estimated that the investigation would take about 10 months, but Democrats are demanding answers now.
In April 2016, the Treasury Department announced it would unveil the new bill in 2020, the year marking the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
The New York Times reported that “extensive work” had already been done before Mnuchin’s announcement, and it published a leaked image of the design earlier this month. A current employee also told the Times they had seen an engraving plate for the Tubman bill first hand as recently as May 2018.
The Treasury Department said on Monday any scheduling changes surrounding the issuing of new banknotes reflected the need to design security features to prevent counterfeiting, not political motivations. The department did not immediately respond to a request for comments on the Democrats’ latest push to meet the 2020 deadline.
Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) said she rejects that explanation and the claim that the decision was not politically motivated.
People from all backgrounds, including “black, white, brown, young and old” want Harriet Tubman to be on the bill, Beatty said.
Beatty is the author of the Woman on the Twenty Act, which she reintroduced to Congress earlier this month to push the Treasury Department to release the Tubman design by 2020. She vowed to hold a press conference every week to get Tubman on the $20 note, saying she would fight for it “as long as I have the strength. And as long as I can have the voice.”
“[Harriet Tubman] actually epitomizes what this country is about. She was a freedom fighter who fought for all people,” said Deborah Wilder, a member of Delta Sigma Theta Social Action Committee, a political organizing group for sorority members. Wilder traveled from Maryland, Tubman’s home state, to attend the press conference.
Wilder said that the delay of $20 bill design is a part of a concerted effort by the Trump administration to block any advances that happened under the Obama administration. She added that the administration was delaying the release because it features an African American woman. “I think it’s high past time that she be on the $20,” Wilder said.