WASHINGTON (AP) — Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says he is getting closer to announcing a decision on who will be the first woman on U.S. paper currency in more than a century. He says even though the woman selected will go on the $10 bill, Alexander Hamilton will still be honored.
"Alexander Hamilton is one of my heroes. He's not leaving our money," Lew says in an interview broadcast Tuesday on the "Charlie Rose" program.
Hamilton is currently on the $10 bill and his supporters, including new fans attracted by the hit Broadway musical "Hamilton," have mounted a lobbying campaign to convince Lew not to dislodge Hamilton's portrait from the $10 bill.
Lew did not say how he planned to honor Hamilton as part of his plan to modernize the nation's currency.
But he said that the $10 bill was just the first in a series of bills that will be redesigned as part of the government's effort to keep U.S. currency safe from counterfeiting. He said there were also plans to redesign the $5 bill and the $20 bill. Some Hamilton supporters have suggested that instead of replacing Hamilton, the nation's first Treasury secretary, as the portrait on the $10 bill, Andrew Jackson should be removed from the $20 bill.
But Lew said he needed to follow the sequence that has been established by government experts for the redesign program.
"We have to value security in our currency. So, we're going to have to do this in the order that bills need to be modernized to be safe from counterfeiting," Lew said in the interview broadcast by PBS.
When Lew announced last June that he was going to put a woman on the $10 bill, he asked for suggestions about which woman should be selected and also proposals on how the currency should be redesigned, sparking quite a debate.
The decision was scheduled to be announced by the end of last year, but the decision was postponed to give Treasury time to process all the responses.
"We've gotten millions of responses. We're getting close," Lew said. "We're going to announce it soon."
Lew said that while the debate has focused on the portrait, the redesign would go much further and include the buildings and monuments depicted on the reverse side of the bills as well.
"This is not just about one square inch of one bill," Lew said. "We're looking at how do we take these buildings that are on the back of our bills and bring them to life."
Lew was lobbied about the currency redesign earlier this month by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the author and star of "Hamilton," during a meeting at Treasury. After their discussion, Miranda tweeted that Lew had assured him "you're going to be very happy" with the decision.
Treasury said in a statement that Lew had given Miranda a brief tour of Treasury that included viewing some of Hamilton's possessions and the portrait of Hamilton that hangs in Lew's office.