King Fails to Block “Racist,” “Sexist” Plan to Put Tubman on $20 Bill [Updated]

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Update, 6/21: Steve King’s amendment to keep Harriet Tubman off the $20 bill will not get a vote. This evening, King reportedly said that it would be “racist” and “sexist” to replace Andrew Jackson with Tubman on the currency. “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,” King said. “This is a divisive proposal on the part of the president and mine’s unifying. It says just don’t change anything.” After taking a $20 bill from his pocket to point at, the Iowa congressman also reportedly asked, “Y’know? Why would you want to change that? I am a conservative, I like to keep what we have.”

Original post: Iowa Congressman Steve King recently introduced an amendment (PDF) to a Treasury Department funding bill that would effectively prevent plans to replace Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill from moving forward, the Huffington Post reported Monday.

King’s amendment targets part of the bill that reads, “None of the funds appropriated in this Act or otherwise available to the Department of the Treasury or the Bureau of Engraving and Printing may be used to redesign the $1 Federal Reserve note.” The amendment would replace “$1” with the word “any” and add “or coin” to the end of the sentence.

Opponents of the plans for the Tubman $20 bill, who are primarily conservatives and include Donald Trump, have downplayed Jackson’s role in the genocide of Native Americans and argued that redesigning the bill would come at an undue expense to taxpayers (which isn’t true). Tubman, the former slave turned famed abolitionist, would be the first woman on paper currency in the United States in over a century and the first African American on the face of U.S. paper currency ever.

Earlier this month, King fended off a primary challenge from state Sen. Rick Bertrand, who argued that King was more interested in generating headlines than getting legislation passed for Iowans.

King has meddled in racial politics in the past. He’s compared undocumented immigrants to dogs and criticized protests of police violence against African Americans as being irrational. During a recent stop in Ames, King said he believed that Freddie Gray, who suffered fatal injuries during a ride in the back of a Baltimore police van that an officer is facing murder charges over, had inflicted the wounds on himself.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.