This time - as Hurricane Florence and a series of other storms barrel toward the US - the Department of Homeland Security division charged with responding to disasters says it's prepared even as the agency defends its 2017 response.
Merkley, who is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee but does not sit on the Homeland Security subcommittee, nevertheless acquired a copy of the document describing the transfer and released it on Tuesday.
$9.8 million in funding is being transferred by the Trump administration, away from FEMA and to ICE.
He added, "The money in question - transferred to ICE from FEMA's routine operating expenses - could not have been used for hurricane response due to appropriation limitations". FEMA and nine other agencies under the Department of Homeland Security had approximately 1% taken from their budgets to be put toward ICE's detention facilities.
"Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from @fema to immigration enforcement efforts", Houlton said on Twitter. Merkley's allegation was a "sorry attempt to push a false agenda" as a Category 4 storm headed for the coast of the Carolinas, DHS spokesman Tyler Q Houlton said in a statement.
But FEMA Administrator Brock Long also said the agency was facing an unprecedented workload that included the three catastrophic hurricanes, historic wildfires in California and dozens of other disasters.
According to a copy of the document obtained by CNN, the money transfer amounts to less than 1% of FEMA's overall $1.03 billion budget.
The top Democratic senator on the Appropriations Committee, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, blasted the transfer of funds Wednesday, saying "our eastern coast is left even more vulnerable" as a result.
Merkley's office said he found the reallocation concerning given last season's hurricane response, when the agency was criticized for its handling of Hurricane Maria.
Merkley appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show Tuesday night to detail his claims. "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. "At the start of hurricane season - when American citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still suffering from FEMA's inadequate recovery efforts - the administration transferred millions of dollars away from FEMA".
The report regarding their request comes as ICE faces increasing scrutiny regarding its role in Trump's "zero tolerance" policy that led to thousands of families being separated at the southern border.
Trump praised immigration and border agents at the White House last month amid calls from some Democrats to abolish ICE. With this said, however, a DHS spokesperson says that the funds have nothing to do with disaster relief, meaning it won't impact FEMA's ability to help in the recovery of Hurricane Florence or any subsequent hurricanes.
He said the document makes it clear ICE is using money from FEMA "to build more detention centers".
Ray Zaccaro, Merkley's communications director, tells NPR the administration's response has been "defensive and completely fallacious".
During his press conference Thursday at FEMA headquarters, Long addressed the investigation directly and promised to cooperate.