"Racism and Misogyny": Rep. Ayanna Pressley Slams Steve Mnuchin for Postponing Tubman's Placement on $20 Bill

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley—who is leading the charge to investigate the postponement of the redesign of the $20 bill that was set to feature the likeness of famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman—blasted the Treasury Department this weekend after a new report revealed the redesign plans were much farther along than was previously known.

The redesign was abruptly put on hold last month when, in testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin claimed his department had decided to focus on issues of counterfeiting and security and leave the redesign of the $20 bill to a future administration.

The New York Times on Friday obtained an internal "conceptual design" of the redesigned $20 bill featuring Tubman, who was going to replace its current occupant, Andrew Jackson.

"Secretary Mnuchin has allowed Trump's racism and misogyny to prevent him from carrying out the will of the people," Pressley told Newsweek in a written statement. "Mnuchin, like so many others in this disgraceful administration, continues to behave as if his job is to satisfy this President and not serve the American people. As exhausting and frustrating [as] this may be – we must continue to hold them accountable."

Harriet Tubman
A portrait of Harriet Tubman (ca. 1820-1913) CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

The release of the conceptual design suggests that plans to redesign the bill were well underway beyond what was disclosed to Pressley at the May hearing. The Times report described "extensive work" that departmental officials had already undertaken to implement the redesign before those plans were scrapped. One employee of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing told the paper that he personally viewed a metal engraving plate that would have been relevant to the bill's production.

A former director of the Bureau also told the Times that any new security measures should be implemented hand-in-hand with a redesign, as the two aspects of a bill are not mutually exclusive. "You want to work them together," said Larry E. Rolufs, who led the bureau from 1995 to 1997.

Pressley responded earlier this month to Mnuchin's testimony in a letter to his office demanding an explanation as to the timeline for the Treasury Department's decision. The original plans were put in place by President Barack Obama's Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who in 2015 embarked on a nationwide campaign to gather input about a potential redesign of several U.S. bank notes. Tubman was overwhelmingly chosen by participants as a leading candidate to replace a current bank note figure.

The congresswoman has made a point to highlight the importance of representation on U.S. currency and tried to pin down Mnuchin during his testimony about whether he, too, felt it was important that currency reflect the diversity of America.

"Yes," the secretary responded when asked if, in American politics and imagery, he thought representation was important. But he declined to link that brief indication of support to a commitment ensuring U.S. currency would contribute to this representation.

Pressley and many of her Democratic colleagues have found Mnuchin's reasoning and his explanation for the timeline suspicious, and they are seeking to better understand why a redesign now revealed to be partially completed could have been so suddenly put on hold.

"My letter that was sent to the Treasury on June 6th gives Secretary Mnuchin until July 1st to elaborate on his claim that the redesign timeline has been pushed back to 2028," Pressley said. "I look forward to reviewing his response."

End Gun Violence Together Rally
U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) speaks at the End Gun Violence Together Rally hosted by TOMS at Union Market Dock 5 on February 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. Getty/Paul Morigi
"Racism and Misogyny": Rep. Ayanna Pressley Slams Steve Mnuchin for Postponing Tubman's Placement on $20 Bill | Politics