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Lawmaker wants state support for new $20 bill

AP file photo In this Feb. 7, 2012, file photo, a wax likeness of the renowned abolitionist and conductor of the Underground Railroad Harriet Ross Tubman is unveiled at the Presidents Gallery by Madame Tussauds in Washington. With a change of administrations, it looks like Harriet Tubman is once again headed to the front of the $20 bill. Biden press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the Treasury Department is taking steps to resume efforts to put the 19th century abolitionist leader on the $20 bill. Obama administration Treasury Secretary Jack Lew had selected Tubman to replace Andrew Jackson, the nation’s seventh president, on the $20 bill.

The federal government is moving forward with plans to place Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill — and at least one member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives wants the commonwealth to stand behind the effort.

Rep. Darisha Parker, D-Philadelphia, is sponsoring legislation urging Janet Yellen, federal treasury secretary, to create the new $20 bill featuring Tubman. The change began during presidency of President Barack Obama, but development stopped under President Donald Trump.

Trump administration Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin did not move forward with the decision by the Obama administration.

Instead, Mnuchin in 2019 announced a delay in redesigning the $20 bill in order to redesign the $10 and $50 bills first to improve security features to thwart counterfeiters.

The unveiling of the redesigned $20 bill featuring Tubman, famous for her efforts spiriting slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad, had been timed by the Obama administration to coincide with the 100th anniversary of passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

Under the schedule Mnuchin announced in May 2019, the redesigned $20 bill would not have come out until 2028 with final designs for the bill not announced until 2026.

“As many of us know, Harriet Tubman was an American heroine who, after freeing herself from slavery, assisted hundreds of other slaves by helping them escape and leading them to the safety of the northern states through the Underground Railroad,” Parker said in her legislative memorandum. “Once the Civil War began, she continued her fight by working for the Union Army as a cook, nurse, scout and spy and, once the war was over, she again persisted and became a leader in the women’s suffrage movement. The American people were correct in their decision – it is only fitting to honor this exceptional, brave individual by placing her picture on a currency note. The former United States Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, announced a delay in the plan to make this happen citing the development of public security measures. According to the experts, the delay appeared to be arbitrary and unnecessary.”

Jen Psaki, press secretary for President Joe Biden, told reporters in January that she and other officials were surprised to hear of the delays in putting Tubman on the $20 bill. With a change in administrations, she said the Treasury Department was taking steps to resume efforts to put Tubman on the $20 bill.

“It is important that our …. money reflect the history and diversity of our country and Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that,” Psaki said. “We are exploring ways to speed up that effort.”

Psaki said specifics on a new timeline for introducing a redesigned $20 with Tubman would be announced when finalized by the Treasury Department. Biden has selected Janet Yellen to be his Treasury secretary, the first woman to hold that position in the department’s 232 years.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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