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House GOP agrees to $500K hike in cost cap to defend DOMA

CHRIS JOHNSON | Washington Blade
Friday, December 14, 2012
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U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has pledged to continue defending of the Defense of Marriage Act at the Supreme Court as a newly public contract reveals House Republicans secretly agreed to raise the cost cap for doing so to $2 million.

A copy of the agreement obtained on Thursday by the Washington Blade and other media outlets reveals that House Committee on Administration Chair Dan Lungren agreed to raise the cost cap by $500,000. The news was first reported by Roll Call.

Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio)
File photo by Michael Key, Washington Blade

The agreement indicates Lungren signed the contract on Sept. 28. But Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for Pelosi, said House Democrats had only obtained a copy of it on Thursday — nearly three months later and after Election Day.

Asked by the Washington Blade before the news broke during his weekly news conference whether he backs raising the cost cap beyond $1.5 million, Boehner replied, “If the Justice Department is not going to enforce the law of the land, then Congress will.”

Boehner didn’t answer a follow up question to clarify whether he supports raising the cost cap to pay for defending DOMA as he ended the news conference. His initial response is misleading because the Obama administration has in fact continued to enforce DOMA at the same time as it has declined to defend the statute in court.

In February 2011, the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend Section 3 of DOMA against litigation because the president and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder deemed the statute was unconstitutional. Following a party-line vote of the House Republican-led Bipartisan Legal Advisory Panel, Boehner directed House general counsel to take up defense of DOMA in the administration’s stead. The House Committee on Administration hired outside counsel to take the lead in defense of DOMA: Paul Clement, a U.S. solicitor general under former President George W. Bush.

Last week, the Supreme Court signaled it would take a case challenging the anti-gay law, Windsor v. United States, in addition to a lawsuit challenging California’s Proposition 8, Hollingsworth v. Perry.

Criticism against House Republicans for continued defense of DOMA came from both LGBT advocates and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

In a statement, Pelosi rebuked Republicans for raising the cost cap to defend the anti-gay law and agreeing to do so secretly without informing House Democrats just before Election Day.

“Hiding this contract from voters in the midst of an election season was a cynical move at best, and a betrayal of the public trust at worst,” Pelosi said. “With Americans focused on the creation of jobs and the growth of our economy, Republicans should not be spending $2 million to defend discrimination in our country. We should be embracing our tradition of equality, advancing our promise of opportunity, and securing justice and equal rights for every American.”

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