Should FEMA Be Part of DHS or Not?

Plus, a review of presidential candidates' positions on emergency response


U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona: Voted to merge FEMA into Homeland Security. Opposed efforts to make FEMA a stand-alone agency after it was criticized for poorly responding to Katrina. Argues moving FEMA out of Homeland Security will not automatically improve the nation's emergency preparedness. Wants the government to tap the expertise of private companies to respond more quickly after natural disasters. Failed in a bid to establish an independent agency that would suggest priorities for the U.S. Corps of Engineers, which constructs and maintains flood-control projects.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: Criticized the Bush administration for its response to Katrina. Called for Homeland Security to be streamlined. Said he would have appointed someone to oversee federal spending on recovery. Would not answer directly when asked if FEMA should be moved out of Homeland Security. Said improving FEMA is more important than determining where it fits on an organizational chart.

Democrats

U.S. Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware: Voted to merge FEMA into Homeland Security. Opposed efforts to make FEMA a stand-alone agency after it was criticized for poorly responding to Katrina. Said moving FEMA would be disruptive and hinder preparedness. Supports having the FEMA director report to the president before, during and after a natural disaster. Has proposed extra spending for more communications equipment for first responders.

U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York: Voted to merge FEMA into Homeland Security. Led the failed effort to make FEMA a stand-alone agency after it was criticized for poorly responding to Katrina. Supports the appointment of someone to oversee Katrina recovery efforts. Called for waiving the federal rule requiring local money be used to match a percentage of federal funding for infrastructure improvements. Wants to create a Gulf Coast Corps to rebuild and provide skilled professionals to the region devastated by Katrina. Backs a review of the U.S. Corps of Engineers' progress in rebuilding New Orleans' pump and levee system.

U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut: Voted to merge FEMA into Homeland Security. Backed the failed efforts to make FEMA a stand-alone agency after it was criticized for poorly responding to Katrina. Co-sponsored legislation that made it easier for affordable housing to be rebuilt in areas hit by Katrina.

Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina: Voted to merge FEMA into Homeland Security. Edwards was no longer in the Senate when that body voted to make FEMA an independent agency. Announced his second run for the presidency in New Orleans' Ninth Ward, which was damaged extensively during Katrina. Supports building more affordable housing in damaged areas. Wants to create a wage and labor taskforce to look into worker abuse as infrastructure is rebuilt. Backs the construction of stronger levees and the restoration of coastal wetlands as a barrier against storm surge. Proposed hiring 50,000 Gulf Coast residents to fill "stepping stone" jobs to help rebuild the region.

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois: Voted to merge FEMA into Homeland Security. Supported failed effort to make FEMA a stand-alone agency after it was criticized for poorly responding to Katrina. Led successful effort to require states to plan for evacuating special-needs residents. Also led push for the establishment of a phone system that allows displaced residents to connect with relatives.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson: Has argued states should not be required to match a percentage of federal reconstruction spending after a natural disaster. Also backs forgiving reconstruction loans and federal help to offset tax losses in communities hit by natural disasters. Wants FEMA to be a stand-alone agency again.