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Boehner denies contract to defend DOMA violates House rules

Friday, June 3, 2011
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U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday denied that a contract executed to hire a private attorney to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court was in violation of House rules regarding government contracts.

The Washington Blade reports:

During a news conference, Boehner denied the agreement was in violation of any House rules when asked by the Washington Blade if he’s confident the contract doesn’t violate a law mandating that government-allocated funds be approved through the congressional appropriations process before they’re obligated for any purpose.

“This hiring was approved by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group,” Boehner said. “I’m confident that it complies with all of the rules of the House.”

The five member Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) was comprised of Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) who all voted in favor of directing counsel to defend the statute. The two other members, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), voted against the action.

On April 18, Boehner contracted with former President George W. Bush’s Solicitor General Paul Clement — then a partner in the D.C.-based law firm King & Spalding — to defend DOMA, at a cost of $500,000.

The action was in response to the Obama administration’s announcement that the Justice Department would no longer defend the law in court.

Rep. Michael Honda (D-Calif.) said he believes that Boehner’s agreement could be violating the Anti-deficiency Act, which prohibits “involving the government in any obligation to pay money before funds have been appropriated for that purpose.”

The BLAG has no budget, since it’s not an actual committee, and to date, Congress has not specifically appropriated $500,000 for this case.

King & Spalding eventually reversed its decision to defend DOMA, prompting Clement’s resignation. Clement now works at Bancroft Associates PLLC, where he continues to represent the House in defending DOMA.

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