Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will put US$455 billion in unspent Cares Act funding into an account that his presumed successor, former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, will soon need authorization from Congress to use.

The money will be placed in the agency’s General Fund, a Treasury Department spokesperson said Tuesday. Most of it had gone to support Federal Reserve emergency-lending facilities, and Mnuchin’s clawback would make it impossible for Yellen as Treasury secretary to restore for that purpose without lawmakers’ blessing.

Democrats swiftly criticized the move, with Bharat Ramamurti, a member of the congressionally appointed watchdog panel overseeing Fed and Treasury Covid-19 relief funds, saying “the good news is that it’s illegal and can be reversed next year.”

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