Congress may not have much say about who will be the first woman to grace United States currency in a century despite a push by lawmakers to give a founding mother equal billing with the likes of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Wednesday his department would spend the summer holding town hall meetings and seeking public input as it selects the first female on currency since Martha Washington and Pocahontas were featured in the mid-19th century. She will land on the $10 bill, which Treasury has been planing to redesign for several years.
Lew said federal law gives Treasury the final decision, due this fall, and the honoree will be on the bill by 2020 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of women winning the right to vote.
Lawmakers, who have drafted bills in each chamber to force the change, may expect more say in the pick and might not be pleased that Lew said Alexander Hamilton, the first Treasury secretary, will still remain on some $10 bills.
Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas said Wednesday evening that his committee has jurisdiction over currency production and he wants to hear more from Treasury about the plan. The conservative lawmakers also used the announcement to take a poke at the the administration, saying “by running up the national debt to more than $18 trillion, the administration’s spending policies put these dollars at risk of being worth less no matter whose face is on them.”
Lew said Treasury has great leeway in designing currency, saying the only requirements under the law are that Washington must get the $1 bill and that the honoree on any currency cannot be living.
Harriet Tubman, a leading abolitionist and women’s voting rights suffragist, is seen as a top candidate.