House Republicans, who have repeatedly threatened to not raise the debt ceiling, quietly raised their budgetary allowance to defend the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in federal court.
In a newly revised legal contract obtained by The Huffington Post, the House of Representatives and its law firm, Bancroft LLC, signed on to raise the spending ceiling up to $3 million. A key section reads: “It is further understood and agreed that, effective January 4, 2013, the aforementioned $2.75 million cap may be raised from time to time up to, but not exceeding, $3 million upon written notice of the General Contractor specifying that the General Counsel is legally liable.”
This language was inserted into the governing rules package adopted by the 113th Congress, which in effect authorizes the House legal team to pay outside counsel to defend the federal ban on marriage equality in court.
On Tuesday, Democratic leaders in the House sent a formal complaint letter to Republican House Speaker John Boehner, calling it “the height of hypocrisy” for the GOP “to waste public funds in one breath then claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility in the next.”
“We wish to strongly reaffirm our objections to the repeated actions by the Republican leadership to secretly and dramatically increase the contract between the House and outside counsel in arguing to uphold the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in more than a dozen cases,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer wrote in a joint letter. ”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.”
Pelosi and Hoyer requested more information on the total cost of this case and stressed the pointlessness of the GOP’s actions. “We believe it is only a matter of time before this offensive law is a discarded relic of a bygone era,” they wrote.
In the spring of 2011, the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend the 1996 law because they deemed it unconstitutional. House Republicans then took over the taxpayer funded legal defense of DOMA.
The law defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and denies all federal benefits to same-sex couples, including survivor benefits. Under the law, states can refuse to recognize gay marriages in states contracted in other states where it’s legal.
The Supreme Court will get the last word on DOMA soon. The court plans to hear arguments in March and a decision could come down in June.