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House Nixes Iowa Congressman's Attempt To Block Tubman On $20 Bill

by Staff Reporter
Posted On: 6/23/2016

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TAGS: U.S. House Rules Committee, Rep. Steve King, Treasury Department, currency redesign, U.S. $20 bill, Andrew Jackson, Harriet Tubman

Steve King
Steve King
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House Rules Committee on June 21 shot down a proposal by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) that would have prevented the Treasury Department from spending money to redesign U.S. currency. King had introduced the amendment in Congress, which would have scrapped the federal government's plans to replace President Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill with a picture of abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

Tubman will be the first African-American featured on U.S. paper currency and the first woman on paper currency in a century. Tubman was born into slavery in 1822, eventually escaped and became a leader in the Underground Railroad, which rescued black people from slavery.

King, a conservative Republican known for his outspoken criticism of U.S. immigration policy, said he has nothing against Harriet Tubman, but simply wants to keep Andrew Jackson's portrait on the $20. Meanwhile, Politico quoted King as saying it is "racist" and "sexist" to say a woman or person of color should be added to currency.

Andrew Jackson, the nation's seventh president, will be moved to the back of the $20 bill, joining the existing image of the White House. Alexander Hamilton's portrait will remain on the front of the $10 bill. The back, which now features the Treasury building, will be redesigned to commemorate a 1913 suffragette march and leaders in the movement, including Susan B. Anthony.

Other portrayals of civil rights leaders and women will also be part of new currency designs. Abraham Lincoln will remain on the front of the $5 bill. The back, which now features the Lincoln Memorial, will be redesigned to include key civil rights events at the memorial including Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

The new designs from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing would be made public in 2020, in time for the centennial of woman's suffrage and the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. However, none of the redesigned bills is expected to reach circulation until 2030. Counterfeit deterrence experts point out that the process of designing safeguards for new banknotes is lengthy. The blue security ribbon on the $100 note, for measure, took over 15 years to develop. The Treasury's level of technology is why counterfeit bills make up less than 0.01% of U.S. currency in circulation, but of those the $20 note is the most forged denomination, followed by the $100. So future Treasury Secretaries -- of which there will be several -- could alter or reverse Lew's decisions about currency design changes.