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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

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.

2 hours ago - World

U.S: Nord Stream 2 "will not move forward" if Russia invades Ukraine

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price during a press briefing at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. will make sure the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project between Russia and Germany won't go ahead if Russian troops invade Ukraine, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told NPR on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Germany's ambassador to the U.S. appeared to support Price's strong rhetoric on the strategically significant pipeline that would circumvent Ukrainian transit infrastructure and deliver Russian gas directly to Germany, eliminating one of the last deterrents Ukraine has against an invasion, per Axios' Zachary Basu.

Scoop: Stephanie Ruhle to replace Brian Williams on MSNBC

Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

MSNBC will soon announce plans to move morning anchor Stephanie Ruhle to the 11 pm ET hour that Brian Williams turned into an elite destination, two sources familiar with the move tell Axios.

Details: The 9 am ET hour, currently hosted by Ruhle, will become part of MSNBC's flagship morning show, "Morning Joe," which currently runs from 6 am to 9 am ET.