WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department’s internal watchdog has agreed to look into why designs of a new $20 bill featuring Harriet Tubman will not be unveiled next year.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, last week asked the Treasury Department’s inspector general to open an investigation following Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s announcement at a May Congressional hearing that designs of the new $20 would be unveiled in 2026 instead of 2020 — the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote.
Mr. Mnuchin, at the hearing, would not commit to Tubman being featured on the note, diverging from the plan and timeline set by the Obama administration and leaving the decision to a future Treasury secretary.
Treasury’s inspector general, in a letter to Mr. Schumer dated June 21, said that the review of the $20 will be included in an already-planned audit of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s process for designing new notes and security features. That audit will include interviews with senior officials from Treasury, the B.E.P., the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors and the Secret Service. A formal investigation will be opened if any indication of misconduct surrounding the delay emerge during the inquiry.
“I believe this approach will efficiently address the concerns expressed in your request,” Rich Delmar, the acting inspector general at Treasury, wrote in a letter to Mr. Schumer.
Mr. Delmar said that the review would specifically include the process with respect to the $20 bill.
“If, in the course of our audit work, we discover indications of employee misconduct or other matters that warrant a referral to our Office of Investigations, we will do so expeditiously,” Mr. Delmar added.
The audit is expected to take 10 months. Mr. Delmar said that work would begin before the end of June.
Mr. Mnuchin has said that it was his responsibility to focus on anti-counterfeiting measures with the note and that the $20 bill would still come into circulation by 2030. Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that extensive work on a note featuring Tubman began before President Trump took office and continued until at least 2018.
As a presidential candidate, Mr. Trump said that replacing the $20 bill’s current occupant, Andrew Jackson, with Tubman, a former slave and abolitionist, was “pure political correctness.”
Mr. Schumer said in a statement that he was happy that the matter is being reviewed.
“I’m pleased the inspector general will review this matter and hope it is conducted in an expeditious fashion,” Mr. Schumer said. “There are no women, there are no people of color on our paper currency today, even though they make up a significant majority of our population, and the previous administration’s plan to put New Yorker Harriet Tubman on the $20 note was a long overdue way to recognize that disparity, and rectify it.”
He added: “The motivation for the Trump administration’s decision to delay the release of the new note has not been credibly explained, and the inspector general’s review must get to the bottom of this.”