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Decision To Divert FEMA Money To Border Security Came Down To One Kansas Congressman

Yoder and Davids campaigns

With Hurricane Florence bearing down on the Carolina coasts there is now controversy over the transfer of $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. One of the people responsible for this transfer is Kansas 3rd District Rep. Kevin Yoder, who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees the Department of Homeland Security budget.

The money will reportedly be used to house immigrants detained by ICE at the Mexican border.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who is vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, called out Yoder and President Trump in a statement to MSNBC Wednesday. "It has been no secret that President Trump's obsession with his wall, mass deportation and indiscriminate detention of children comes at a hefty price...and now our Eastern Coast is left even more vulnerable in the path of Hurricane Florence."

Under the Homeland Security Act, only the subcommittee chairs have to agree to transfer funds between agencies under DHS, so Yoder and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito from West Virginia were the sole decisionmakers.

Yoder's campaign says that the $10 million transferred from FEMA was not money that could be spent on disaster relief or preparations. Instead, it was money from an administrative account, and there is $25.6 billion in FEMA Disaster Relief Fund.

Yoder's campaign lashed out. "Democrats like Kevin's opponent would rather see ICE abolished and money spent on paper clips and staplers...than on keeping our nation safe," the campaign said in a statement.

Yoder has been hammering his Democratic opponent Sharice Davids on TV for suggesting during a podcast interview that ICE should be defunded. Davids countered with her own ad in which she denies wanting to abolish ICE. However, in an interview with KMBC Davids admitted she "could have been more articulate" when she gave the podcast interview.

On Thursday, she attacked Yoder for the FEMA fund transfer. Davids called him a Trump "yes man" and an extremist. "Last year he refused to vote for recovery funding for Hurricane Harvey in order to score political points," her campaign said in a statement. 

Sam Zeff is KCUR's metro reporter. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samzeff

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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