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Ayanna Pressley asked Steven Mnuchin when Harriet Tubman would be put on the $20. He didn’t know

Harriet Tubman.
Harriet Tubman. (REUTERS/Library of Congress)

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin admitted under questioning from Representative Ayanna Pressley on Wednesday that a redesigned $20 bill featuring abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman will not be unveiled next year, pushing off a change initiated by his predecessor in the Obama administration.

During a congressional hearing Wednesday, Mnuchin said the redesign would not be finalized until “way past my term,” in 2026.

Mnuchin said he was focused on improving the currency to prevent counterfeiting.

“We will meet the security feature redesign in 2020, the imagery feature will not be an issue that that comes up until, most likely, 2026,” he said during an appearance before a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee.

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He repeatedly demurred when asked by Pressley whether Tubman should eventually replace Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill. She would become the first woman in more than a century and first African-American to appear on a US paper banknote.

“I’ve made no decision as it relates to that,” he said.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced in 2016 that a portrait of Tubman would appear on the front of the $20 bill, replacing Jackson, whose image would move to the back.

The decision was cheered by many who said Jackson’s image on the $20 bill honored a slave-owning president whose policies resulted in the deaths of thousands of Native Americans.

Final designs were set to be unveiled next year, in time for the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote.

In a statement to the Globe, Pressley said Mnuchin has forgotten that he works for the American people, “not the occupant of the White House.”

Trump said in 2016 that while he thought Tubman was “fantastic,” having her image replace Jackson’s on the $20 bill was “pure political correctness.” Trump suggested putting Tubman on the lightly circulated $2 bill.

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“Secretary Lew specifically directed the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to unveil the final design concepts in 2020 and ever since Secretary Mnuchin was appointed, the Treasury Department has completely disregarded their role in actualizing the diversity of our country,” Pressley said. “Representation matters, and Secretary Mnuchin has the responsibility to see this through.”

Women on 20s, one of the organizations that advocated for putting Tubman’s portrait on the $20 bill, said in a statement Wednesday that it was unsurprised Mnuchin “may be kicking the design reveal of the $20 bill to sometime beyond the potential interference of a Trump presidency.”

The organization called on Congress to pass legislation to compel the Treasury Department to speed up the redesign.

“As we’ve been saying for years, symbols do matter,” the statement said.


Christina Prignano can be reached at christina.prignano@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.