U.S. Rep. John Katko isn't giving up his effort to put Harriet Tubman's likeness on paper currency.
Katko, R-Camillus, met with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Thursday and discussed the plans to place Tubman on the $20 bill. The Treasury Department under then-President Barack Obama announced in 2016 that Tubman would be the new face of the bill.
Mnuchin, Katko said, explained that the Treasury Department is determining what security upgrades are needed for paper currency. Once the determine what updates are needed, the agency will address other changes, such as putting new faces on the bills.
"He didn't give a time frame, but I think some of it could be sooner rather than later," Katko said in a phone interview.
When asked if Mnuchin has changed his view from 2017 when he wouldn't commit to adding Tubman to paper currency, Katko responded, "He didn't give me an indication one way or another, but I clearly gave him an indication that I'm going to be pushing this issue and that's exactly what we're going to do."
Following the meeting with Mnuchin, Katko's office announced that he and U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, have reintroduced the Harriet Tubman Tribute Act. The bill would direct the treasury secretary to place Tubman's likeness on the $20 bill.
Cummings and Katko first introduced the measure in 2017. In 2015, Katko sponsored legislation that would require the Treasury Department to put Tubman on paper money. It didn't specify the denomination.
Katko plans to meet with a White House legislative team and present them with a copy of the bill. He's hopeful that President Donald Trump, who once dismissed putting Tubman on the $20 bill as "pure political correctness," will support the measure.
"It actually would be great for the president to get behind it as well," he said.
Placing Tubman on paper currency would be a significant development for the country and central New York. Tubman, who was born into slavery in Maryland, escaped and eventually settled in Auburn. She died in 1913 and is buried at Fort Hill Cemetery in the city.
Tubman's property on South Street, which consists of her brick residence and the Home for the Aged, is now part of the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park.
Katko believes adding Tubman to any denomination of paper money would boost tourism in Auburn and central New York.
"It would increase people's interest in Tubman and her legacy," he said.
Even if the Treasury Department doesn't act quickly, Katko is hopeful that Congress will advance his bill. Several of his colleagues have signed on as cosponsors — a number wasn't immediately available — and members of both parties support the measure.
Cummings, who has teamed with Katko on this effort before, said it's "past time" to honor Tubman.
"Too often our nation does not do enough to honor the contributions of women in American history, especially women of color," Cummings said. "Placing Harriet Tubman on our U.S. currency would be a fitting tribute to a woman who fought to make the values enshrined in our Constitution a reality for all Americans."
In the meantime, Katko is drafting a letter that will be sent to Mnuchin. He aims to collect signatures from other members of Congress to urge the Treasury Department to place Tubman on paper currency.
The letter, Katko said, will keep the pressure on Mnuchin. But he hopes that even if the Treasury Department doesn't act quickly, Congress will.
"I'm cautiously optimistic we might be able to start to try and get this thing moved soon," he said.