News (USA)

Congressman calls for hearing to address rising cost of DOMA defense

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Congressman from California has called for a hearing to address the rising cost to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), calling it an “irresponsible, backdoor use of taxpayer money.”

Mike Honda

Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Ranking Member of the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, on Tuesday sent a letter to the Subcommittee’s Chairman — Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) — asking for the hearing “to shine light” on the GOP effort to defend the “constitutionally-questionable Defense of Marriage Act.”

According to a recently approved contract modification, House General Counsel Kerry Kircher agreed to pay Bancroft LLC private attorney Paul Clement a sum not to exceed $750,000 to defend DOMA, but this cap may be raised to $1.5 million under written notice. The initial contract hired Clement to defend the law at a blended rate of $520 an hour and initial total cost cap of $500,000.

Honda’s letter reads in part:

The American people are now being told by Speaker Boehner and House Republican Leadership that even more of their tax dollars will be spent to defend a provision in DOMA that has systemically discriminated against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered community. In a contract modification approved by House Administration Committee Chairman Daniel Lungren on September 30, 2011, the House General Counsel agreed to raise the cap to $750,000, and up to $1.5 million with written consent. Once again, no one appears to know where these additional funds will come from.

In a time of professed fiscal responsibility, it is unconscionable for the House Republican Leadership to continue to spend taxpayer money to protect discrimination, especially through a process that has, thus far, lacked any semblance of transparency.

I ask that you immediately hold a hearing on this matter so that we can shine light on this irresponsible, backdoor use of taxpayer money. Our subcommittee and the American people deserve to know why the House Republican Leadership is pursuing this effort to protect a discriminatory law, an effort which, at a time of high unemployment, only serves to create jobs for Speaker Boehner’s hand-picked, high-priced lawyers.

We also deserve to know why the cost has escalated so rapidly in such a short time, and how much the Republican Leadership plans to spend on this unwise endeavor. We should not be handing over a blank check that will allow unlimited taxpayer dollars to be spent on the Republican Leadership’s political agenda.

The Obama administration in February announced that it would no longer defend DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage, against litigation in court.

In March, after the GOP-led House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group voted along party-lines to take up defense of DOMA, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) directed hired Clement to defend the statute.

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