A piece published by the Washington Post editorial board on Friday blames Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin for delaying a redesign of the $20 bill just days after the paper reported that the delay was an Obama-era decision.
Mnuchin announced in May that the release of a new bill replacing President Andrew Jackson's face with that of underground railroad hero Harriet Tubman would likely happen in 2028. The editorial board called Mnuchin's announcement a "delay" and said means that "only likenesses of white men will appear on U.S. paper money for the duration" of President Donald Trump's tenure, assuming he wins reelection in 2020.
The editorial board also insinuated that the delay might mean a removal of Tubman from the future bills, writing that a spokeswoman for Mnuchin "made no mention of whether Tubman’s likeness would appear on it, perhaps for fear of provoking that tireless sentry in the White House in his vigilant lookout for political correctness."
The Post‘s own reporting, however, tells a different story. The Treasury Department's delay in releasing the new bills was planned internally during President Barack Obama's second term.
Although Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in 2016 that a "final concept design" of the Tubman $20 bill would be complete by 2020, staffers within his agency said that timeline was unrealistic. Additionally, the new $20 bill was not set to be released until 2030 anyway, so Larry R. Felix, director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing from 2006 to 2015, deemed that it would not be wise to release the design 10 years before the bills themselves.
A Treasury spokesman confirmed this opinion to the Post, stating that the department often releases the "concept" for a new bill before putting new money into circulation, but never more than a year in advance.
"The timeline for issuing a new $20 note remains consistent with the prior Administration's," a Treasury Department spokesman said in a statement. "As the Department and Bureau of Engraving and Printing have consistently stated, the only consideration with regard to the redesign schedule of our Nation's currency has been security and potential counterfeiting threats."
Mnuchin has stated in the past his indifference to whose face appears on the new $20 bill, but has committed to following the previous administration's directives.