In April, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced a number of upcoming changes to U.S. currency, including putting abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the front of the $20 bill and Andrew Jackson on the back, as well as including images of women’s suffrage and civil rights leaders on the backs of the $10 and $5 bills. But Rep. Steve King (R-IA) wants to stop any of those changes from going forward.
King filed an amendment late Tuesday to an appropriations bill that would prevent money from being spent on any redesigns of the country’s currency. And he made it clear that his intention is to keep bills looking exactly the way they do now.
“It’s not about Harriet Tubman, it’s about keeping the picture on the $20,” he told Politico, even though Jackson’s image will still be on the back of the bill. “Y’know? Why would you want to change that? I am a conservative, I like to keep what we have.”
He also called it “racist” and “sexist” to say that the United States should put a woman or person of color on the country’s money. “Here’s what’s really happening: This is liberal activism on the part of the president that’s trying to identify people by categories, and he’s divided us on the lines of groups,” he said. “This is a divisive proposal on the part of the president, and mine’s unifying. It says just don’t change anything.”
There are currently no women on paper money; the only times women were on bills in the past were when Martha Washington was briefly on the front of a $1 silver certificate in the 1880s and Native American Pocahontas was on the back of the $20 bill in the 1860s. Some women have been on the fronts of coins, such as Sacagawea, Susan B. Anthony, and Helen Keller.
The appropriations bill will be voted on by the House this week, although it’s unclear whether King’s amendment will officially get added to the bill or get a vote.
King’s not the only Republican who reacted negatively to Lew’s announcement about the currency design changes. Hours afterward, presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called it “pure political correctness,” saying, “Andrew Jackson had a great history, and I think it’s very rough when you take somebody off the bill. Andrew Jackson had a history of tremendous success for the country.” Former presidential candidate Ben Carson also defended Jackson, calling him “a tremendous president,” and suggested Tubman be put on the $2 bill.
But Jackson’s presidency was not as tremendous as they claim. Jackson, whose wealth was built through his ownership of hundreds of slaves, called for the forced removal of Native Americans from their land to make room for more slave plantations and signed the Indian Removal Act, leading to thousands of Native Americans dying on the Trail of Tears. He also made economic decisions that led to a bubble and then massive recession.
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