Roll Call is reporting that in September, soon to be former Congressman Dan Lungren (R-CA) secretly approved a $500,000 increase in a contract with a private law firm to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This is the second increase in funding allocated to Bancroft PLLC and former Solicitor General, Republican Paul Clement, to spend up to $2 million to defend the law in federal court. The contract was originally set at $500,000 and was raised on September 29, 2011 to $1.5 million and again on September 28, 2012 to its current level.
Despite the raise in the contract cap taking place nearly three months ago, House Democrats and the public were not informed until December 13.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi blasted Republicans for their actions in a statement:
It’s bad enough that Speaker Boehner and House Republicans are wasting taxpayer dollars to defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act – and losing in every case. Now, they have reached a new low – signing a secret contract to spend more public money on their legal boondoggle without informing Democrats. Their actions are simply unconscionable; their decisions are utterly irresponsible.
Hiding this contract from voters in the midst of an election season was a cynical move at best, and a betrayal of the public trust at worst. With Americans focused on the creation of jobs and the growth of our economy, Republicans should not be spending $2 million to defend discrimination in our country.
Legal challenges to DOMA have been mounting across the country, forcing the Republicans to up the financial ante. In an interview Thursday, Lungren stated the figure may have to be revised upward again due to the heavy workload that may result from defending DOMA in the upcoming Supreme Court review. He said that in addition to evaluating the constitutionality of the statue, the court has posed the question of whether the House has the standing to defend the measure in court and that may require additional preparation. Arguments are set to be heard in March, with a decision expected by the end of June.
The Department of Justice stopped defending DOMA in February of 2011 after concluding it was unconstitutional.
When asked about the secret raise in the cap at a press conference, Speaker Boehner heatedly responded that if the Department of Justice won’t defend the law, then Congress will. The focus of the press conference was “Washington has a spending problem.” The irony was apparently lost on Mr. Boehner.
The fact that the money was allocated in secret is telling and illustrates that not only have Republicans not learned anything from the losses they suffered in the 2012 election, but they are intent on continuing down the road that caused those losses. To borrow a tag line from Ed Schultz, who borrowed it from President Obama, please proceed, Republicans.