Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are only a few days left in our critical Mid-Year Campaign and we truly might not make it without your help.
Please join us. If you rely on independent media, support Common Dreams today. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin departs from the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at the U.S. Capitol on September 30, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

'Flat-Out Sabotage' Already Underway as Mnuchin Tries to Put $455 Billion in Covid Funds Out of Biden Team's Reach

"Burning it down on the way out the door. There is no reasonable justification for this."

Jake Johnson

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is under fire for attempting to undermine the incoming Biden administration's response to the Covid-19 pandemic on his way out the door after his department confirmed Tuesday that it intends to place $455 billion in unspent coronavirus relief funds into an account that requires congressional authorization to access.

Bloomberg reported that the funds, which Congress allocated to the Federal Reserve in March for emergency lending programs to assist local governments and struggling businesses, will be put in the Treasury Department's General Fund following Mnuchin's widely condemned decision last week to cut off the relief programs at the end of the year.

"As the economy backslides amid skyrocketing Covid-19 cases, Secretary Mnuchin is engaged in economic sabotage, and trying to tie the Biden administration's hands."
—Sen. Ron Wyden

Mnuchin requested that the funds be reallocated by the currently divided Congress, and the Fed has agreed to cooperate with the outgoing treasury secretary's move.

According to Bloomberg, "Mnuchin' clawback would make it impossible" for Janet Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department, to utilize the funds "without lawmakers' blessing."

"The move leaves just under $80 billion available in the Treasury's Exchange Stabilization Fund, a pot of money that can be used with some discretion by the Treasury chief," Bloomberg noted. "By contrast, the CARES Act funds had specific uses, and weren't available for general government spending purposes."

While Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker, insisted he is attempting to ensure the funds are put to better use, Democratic members of Congress and other observers immediately accused the treasury secretary of a potentially unlawful ploy to hamstring the Biden administration's coronavirus response before the president-elect takes office. According to one analyst, Mnuchin's actions are an "explicit" violation of the CARES Act.

"This is Treasury's latest ham-handed effort to undermine the Biden administration. The good news is that it's illegal and can be reversed next year," tweeted Bharat Ramamurti, a member of the congressional commission established to oversee the use of coronavirus relief money. "For its part, the Fed should not go along with this attempted sabotage and should retain the CARES Act funds it already has."

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, denounced as "shameful" Mnuchin's effort to pull back the congressional relief funds and place them out of the Biden administration's reach.

"As the economy backslides amid skyrocketing Covid-19 cases, Secretary Mnuchin is engaged in economic sabotage, and trying to tie the Biden administration's hands," Wyden said in a statement to Reuters on Tuesday.

Echoing Wyden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted late Tuesday that "Secretary Mnuchin's Covid-19 response has been a corrupt and incompetent failure."

"He needs to stop sabotaging the Biden administration from cleaning up his mess and helping states, cities, and small businesses," said Warren.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Jan. 6 Panel Subpoenas Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone

Noting his refusal to cooperate beyond an informal April interview, the committee's chair said that "we are left with no choice."

Jessica Corbett ·


Sanders Pushes Back Against AIPAC Super PAC With Endorsements of Tlaib and Levin

"Once again, these extremists are pouring millions of dollars into a congressional race to try to ensure the Democratic Party advances the agenda of powerful corporations and the billionaire class."

Brett Wilkins ·


Missouri Hospital System Resumes Providing Plan B After 'Shameful' Ban

The health network had stopped offering emergency contraception over fears of violating the state's abortion law—a "dangerous" move that critics warned could become a national trend.

Jessica Corbett ·


'An Act of Conquest': Native Americans Condemn SCOTUS Tribal Sovereignty Ruling

"Every few paragraphs of the majority opinion has another line that dismissively and casually cuts apart tribal independence that Native ancestors gave their lives for," observed one Indigenous law professor.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Lunacy': Democrats Risk Running Out of Time to Confirm Federal Judges

"Democrats aren't filling open seats right now in federal district courts because, for unfathomable reasons, they are letting red state senators block nominees," said one critic.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo