MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported Tuesday night on the FEMA transfer, and Wednesday night on the Coast Guard transfer. FEMA spokeswoman Jenny Burke said on Twitter that she tried to explain the nuance of the document to Merkley's staff before he went on air but they were told: "It's a TV hit, you take it where you can".
Long is the latest in a long line of Trump administration officials to come under fire for misusing government funds on travel. ICE is an agency within that department, as is FEMA.
While DHS spokespeople have claimed the FEMA money did not come from its disaster relief coffers, the documents sent to Congress indicated it came from FEMA's "operations and support" funds. "DHS/FEMA stand fiscally and operationally ready to support current and future response and recovery needs".
Merkely said he believes the budgeting reallocation happened in response to the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy, which was rolled out earlier this year. "It wasn't enough to rip thousands of children out of the arms of their parents - the administration chose to partly pay for this horrific program by taking away from the ability to respond to damage from this year's upcoming and potentially devastating hurricane season".
Republicans, however, said that Merkley was trying to politicize something that should be above politics and that the whole issue was overblown.
"That has not impacted our situation whatsoever", Byard said. Thom Tillis of North Carolina said in an interview Wednesday. "We are going to see more storms, we're going to see fiercer storms, and so it's absolutely critical that when Congress designates these funds for hurricane preparedness, that's what they are used for". FEMA has an account with US$25 billion that is to be used for disaster response and recovery, according to DHS.
"We need to look over the long term about being more prepared", said Rep. Darren Soto (D) Florida.
"(It's) this pattern of misbehavior by ICE where they overspend the amount they have been given by Congress, specifically for immigration detention, and then they make it up by basically robbing other accounts in DHS", Small said. "We will work with the OIG to get anything corrected", he added.
Many Democratic lawmakers have called for the agency to be abolished.
"ICE continues to spend at an unsustainable rate", the Senate Appropriations Committee report accompanying its proposal for Homeland Security next fiscal year says. But news of it comes as the National Weather Service warns that Hurricane Florence "will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast".