WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Monday the Department of Justice should give the House money to defend the Defense of Marriage Act since the agency is not willing to defend the law itself.
“Obviously, DOJ’s decision results in DOJ no longer needing the funds it would have otherwise expended defending the constitutionality of DOMA,” wrote Boehner in a letter sent to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “It is my intent that those funds be diverted to the House for reimbursement of any costs incurred by and associated with the House, and not DOJ, defending DOMA."
Boehner and House Republicans have retained former Bush Solicitor General Paul Clement to defend the constitutionality of DOMA.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) immediately panned Boehner’s demand, saying he still has not disclosed the cost to taxpayers of hiring outside legal counsel.
“According to reports, a contract engaging Paul D. Clement to serve as the outside counsel reportedly was forwarded to the Committee on House Administration, although not to the Democratic members or staff of the Committee,” Pelosi wrote in a letter back to Boehner. “Mr. Clement, a former Solicitor General of the United States, is a partner in the Washington firm King & Spalding where he is in charge of the national appellate practice. I would like to know when the contract with Mr. Clement was signed, and why a copy was not provided to Democrats on the Committee.”
Boehner and Pelosi are members of the five-person House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which voted along party lines (3-2) last month to direct the House General Counsel to initiate a legal defense of DOMA. On March 11, Pelosi wrote Boehner a letter asking him how much it would cost taxpayers to defend the suit, since the House General Counsel would need to hire private attorneys to assist in the case.
In a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing last month, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department would not save much money by no longer defending DOMA. In late February, Holder announced the administration would no longer argue in support of the law after determining DOMA, which defines federal marriage as between one man and one woman, violates the equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment.
"I'm not sure we save any money, frankly," Holder said at the hearing. "The people who would be defending the statute, were we to do that, are career employees of the Department of Justice."
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told The Huffington Post that the amount the U.S. government pays Clement will be determined by his “legal strategy.” He also said that they probably would not be releasing the engagement letter outlining the terms of the relationship with Clement.
The Human Rights Campaign immediately criticized the announcement of Clement.
"Not only are House Republican leaders defending the indefensible, they’ve brought in a high priced attorney to deny federal recognition to loving, married couples," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "Speaker Boehner appears ready to go to great lengths, and the great expense of a high-power law firm, to try to score some cheap political points on the backs of same-sex couples. King & Spalding were not required to take up this defense and should be ashamed of associating themselves with an effort to deny rights to their fellow citizens."