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DOMA defense price tag gets raised–again–by House GOP leadership

DOMA trials

By Jacob Combs

The GOP leadership of the House of Representatives has raised the spending cap for the legal defense of DOMA to $3 million, The Huffington Post reported yesterday after receiving a copy of the House’s new contract.  The House’s Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) has been defending the law in court after the Obama administration announced in February 2011 its belief that DOMA is unconstitutional and therefore should not be defended by the Justice Department in court.

In mid-December, I wrote about CQ Roll Call’s report that House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren had earlier that fall quietly approved an increase in the DOMA contract to $2 milion.  According to the Huffington Post, Republican Rep. Candice Miller, chair of the House Administration Committee, signed another updated contract with the Washington law firm Bancroft LLC on January 4 that increased the spending cap to $3 million.

At the start of the 113th Congress, GOP leaders in the House placed language in the Congress’s new rules allowing the chamber’s legal team to keep paying Bancroft to defend DOMA.  That language explicitly said that the legal team would “speak for” the entire House in its defense of the law, which angered House Democrats who oppose DOMA.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, the two top Democrats in the chamber who voted against authorizing BLAG to defend DOMA in court, wrote a letter to Speaker John Boehner condemning the spending cap increase:

Let us be clear: these steps do not reflect the will of the House or the consensus of the BLAG.  Democrats do not support any decisions to invest taxpayer funds in defense of an indefensible law.  We remain united in our opposition to any effort to preserve, protect, and defend discrimination in our country.

From the start, the Republican-led campaign to defend DOMA has been a practice in futility and a waste of Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars.  The Republican-appointed, taxpayer-funded legal team has lost in every case.  Courts across the nation have stood on the side of justice and equality for all Americans.  DOMA is on its way into the dustbin of history.

It would be bad enough if Republicans were losing in court and accepting the result.  Yet it is the height of hypocrisy for House Republicans to waste public funds in one breath then claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility in the next.  With Republicans willing to take our economy and our country to the brink of default in the name of deficit reduction, there is simply no excuse for any Member of Congress to commit taxpayer dollars to an unnecessary – and futile – legal battle.

It’s bad enough that Boehner and the GOP leadership in the House seem to be fine with setting aside an ever-growing pool of money to defend a discriminatory law.  What’s worse, though, is that they appear to be committed to doing so in secrecy.  When the Supreme Court strikes down the law as unconstitutional, as two appeals courts and several district courts have already done, the House’s spending on the defense of DOMA will look like nothing more than money well wasted.

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