House Dems question funding for GOP’s defense of DOMA

House Democrats are questioning where nearly $750,000 in federal funds to outside counsel, hired to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, will come from.

On Tuesday, what began as a House Appropriations Legislative Branch subcommittee hearing on the fiscal 2013 budget request for several government agencies, including the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, quickly devolved into a partisan fight over the allocation of resources to defend DOMA.


Subcommittee ranking member Mike Honda (D-Calif.) questioned CAO Daniel Strodel as to where he had gotten the funds that were later transferred to the House’s Office of General Counsel.

Strodel testified that the money had come from the House Salaries, Officers and Employees account. The Department of Justice had not contributed any funds to the House’s defense of the law.

Honda questioned why, in a time of increasing congressional fiscal austerity, the House could find funding for an “unconstitutional law that separates all of us.”

Honda’s Republican colleague on the subcommittee, Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio), immediately pounced on Honda’s qualification of DOMA as unconstitutional, instead placing blame for the spiraling costs of the House’s defense of DOMA on the Department of Justice.

“[We’re] paying the Justice Department to oppose a statute that is a valid statute signed into law by President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonClintons send pizza to NY hospital staff treating coronavirus Budowsky: President Trump, meet with all former living presidents Why Klobuchar should be Biden's vice presidential pick MORE,” he said. “It’s the law of the land, and [remains so] until a court reaches the conclusion that it’s unconstitutional or unworkable.”

“The House of Representatives, one not normally charged with doing the [DOJ’s] job for it, is doing precisely that; defending the statute in the courts,” LaTourette added. “This conflict is costing the American taxpayers money on both sides of every case, so if you want to be mad at someone, you should be mad at the Department of Justice.”

This isn’t the first time House Republicans and Democrats have squared off over the funding to defend DOMA, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

In October, House Democrats — including Reps. Robert Brady (Pa.) and Charles Gonzalez (Texas) — publicly criticized their GOP colleagues for increasing the contract with the lawyer hired to defend DOMA from $500,000 to $1.5 million.

Last May, Bancroft PLLC lawyer Paul Clement was hired to represent Congress in defense of DOMA, which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

“The original contract was a misguided promise to waste a half-million dollars of taxpayer money. Further spending to defend DOMA is simply unconscionable,” wrote the lawmakers in a statement.

Last year House Democrats also pushed Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerMeadows set to resign from Congress as he moves to White House The Pelosi administration Coronavirus spending will come amid huge deficits MORE (R-Ohio) for information regarding the original contract, sending a letter requesting that all members of the House Administration Committee be able to review the document.

“We call on the Republican Leadership to explain why they will invest in protecting discrimination and how any of this can put Americans back to work,” they demanded.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was quick to defend her fellow Democrats.

“It is absolutely unconscionable that Speaker BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerMeadows set to resign from Congress as he moves to White House The Pelosi administration Coronavirus spending will come amid huge deficits MORE is tripling the cost for his legal boondoggle to defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in October.

“At a time when Americans are hurting and job creation should be the top priority, it just shows how out of touch House Republicans have become that they would spend up to $1.5 million dollars to defend discrimination in our country,” he added.

Boehner’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

On Tuesday, House General Counsel Kerry Kircher acknowledged that his office had received nearly $750,000 from the CAO, but he did not stipulate as to how much of the sanctioned $1.5 million had yet been spent on DOMA’s defense.

Legal action will remain ongoing, however, as House GOP leaders are appealing a February federal court decision that found a section of DOMA to be unconstitutional.

When asked if the legal costs were likely to exceed $1.5 million, Kircher remained cagey, saying he was beholden to his client, House leadership.

“It’s hard to know how much we will ultimately spend because it’s hard to know how this litigation ultimately plays out,” he said. “Obviously the name of the game here is to get some case before the Supreme Court and get a resolution on this issue.”