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Boehner maxes out $1.5 million cost cap for DOMA defense

Boehner maxes out  $1.5 million cost cap for DOMA defense

The House Republican-led panel that has taken up defense of the Defense of Marriage Act in court has maxed out the $1.5 million cost cap set to hire private attorneys to advocate for the anti-gay law, according to a report from Democratic lawmakers.

On Tuesday, Democrats on the Committee on House Administration made public a report stating the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group — which took up defense of DOMA after the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend the law in court — has reached expenses totaling out to $1,447,996.73 over the course of fiscal years 2011 and 2012.

The $1.5 million cost cap that House Speaker John Boehner has allotted to defend DOMA has been reached.
Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key.

That’s just shy of the $1.5 million cost cap that House Republicans set last year to pay private attorney Paul Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general under the Bush administration, to defend DOMA. Thus far, Clement has lost in five federal courts against lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of DOMA — most notably after U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals became the first appellate court to strike down the law.

In a statement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) slammed House Republicans and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for their continued defense of DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage, at the expense of taxpayer money.

“For more than a year, Speaker Boehner and Congressional Republicans have committed valuable taxpayer dollars to defending discrimination and preserving inequality – only to lose case after case in their effort to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act,” Pelosi said. “There is nothing effective or efficient about this utter abuse of the people’s trust or the public purse; it is simply wasteful and wrong, and Americans deserve better.”

Pelosi added that it’s “unconscionable” for House Republicans — including Chair of the Committee on House Administration Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) — to have authorized a contract to hire a private attorney to defend the DOMA in court and renewed her call for them “to drop their frivolous, taxpayer-funded lawsuits without any delay.”

“Rather than join Democrats to create jobs and strengthen the middle class, Republicans refuse to abandon their reprehensible fight to deny basic civil rights and justice to an entire group of their fellow Americans,” Pelosi said. “The American people should no longer have to foot the bill for Speaker Boehner’s campaign to appease the most conservative forces within the Republican Party.”

The report produced by Democrats on the House itemizes the expenses for defense of DOMA on a periodic basis. Total expenses for defending DOMA in court was $702,205.57 in FY-11 and $745,791.16 in FY-12.

The last billable period was from July 1 to Aug. 15, which totaled out to $169,237.35. More activity in defending DOMA has already occurred since that time, including Clement’s defense of DOMA late last month before the U.S. Second Circuit of Appeals against New York widow Edith Windsor’s challenge to the law.

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