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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A move by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin could handcuff his likely successor Janet Yellen's ability to immediately restart Fed economic programs.

Driving the news: Mnuchin is planning to shift $455 billion in unspent CARES Act funds into a special account that would require Congress' permission to access, Bloomberg reports.

  • It's the latest development in the battle over the Fed's emergency lending programs that Mnuchin said would sunset at year-end.

Why it matters: Assuming no deal before the inauguration, no one knows how long it will take to push through another stimulus when Joe Biden takes office. In theory, these funds could have backed Fed economic support programs while Congress hashes out the next aid package.

  • Now it looks like using these funds comes with the additional hurdle of congressional signoff.

The big question: Whether Mnuchin can do this.

  • Bharat Ramamurti, who's part of the watchdog panel overseeing CARES Act funds, tweeted Mnuchin's plans were "illegal and can be reversed next year."
  • He's not the only one who believes transferring the money to this fund now violates terms laid out in the CARES Act.
  • Treasury maintains Mnuchin's move is legal, Bloomberg notes.

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Jan 20, 2021 - Economy & Business

Janet Yellen said all the right things to reassure the markets

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Treasury Secretary nominee and former Fed chair Janet Yellen's confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday showed markets just what they can expect from the administration of President-elect Joe Biden: more of what they got under President Trump — at least for now.

What it means: Investors and big companies reaped the benefits of ultralow U.S. interest rates and low taxes for most of Trump's term as well as significant increases in government spending, even before the coronavirus pandemic.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
4 mins ago - Economy & Business

Merger Monday has been overrun by SPACs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Five companies this morning announced plans to go public via reverse mergers with SPACs, at an aggregate market value of more than $15 billion. And there might be even more by the time you read this.

The bottom line: SPAC merger activity hasn't peaked. If anything, it's just getting started.

Moderna says vaccine appears to protect against new COVID-19 variants

Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is effective against new variants of the virus that first appeared in the U.K. and in South Africa, the company announced on Monday.

Yes, but: The vaccine was as effective against the strain from U.K., but saw a six-fold reduction in antibodies against the South Africa variant. Even still, the neutralizing antibodies generated by the vaccine "remain above levels that are expected to be protective," according to the company.