WASHINGTON -- House Republican leaders have signed on to spend up to $3 million to keep defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court, according to a copy of their newly revised legal contract obtained by The Huffington Post.
House Republican leaders took over the legal defense of DOMA in the spring of 2011, when Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Obama administration would no longer defend it on the grounds that they found it unconstitutional. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders hired attorneys at the law firm Bancroft LLC to represent the House in court cases involving the federal ban on gay marriage -- all with taxpayer dollars.
On Jan. 4, Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), who chairs the House Administration Committee, signed a revised contract with Bancroft LLC that increases the spending cap to $3 million to allow Bancroft attorneys to keep defending DOMA in various court cases. The revised contract also bears the signatures of Bancroft partner Paul Clement and Kerry Kircher, general counsel for the House of Representatives.
"It is further understood and agreed that, effective January 4, 2013, the aforementioned $2,750,000.00 cap may be raised from time to time up to, but not exceeding, $3,000,000.00, up on written notice of the General Counsel to the Contractor specifying that the General Counsel is legally liable," the contract reads.
A Boehner spokesman referred questions about increased spending on DOMA to the House Administration Committee. A spokeswoman for the committee did not immediately return a request for comment.
The revised contract comes on the heels of House Republican leaders inserting language into the rules package for the 113th Congress that authorizes the House legal team to keep paying outside counsel to defend DOMA. The rules package also states that the House legal team continues to "speak for" all House members in its defense of DOMA -- language that infuriated Democrats opposed to the matter. All but one Republican, Rep. Walter Jones (N.C.), voted to pass the rules package, effectively endorsing the DOMA language. But a Jones spokesman told The Huffington Post that Jones' opposition wasn't DOMA-related.
UPDATE: Salley Wood, a spokeswoman for the House Administration Committee, said Miller signed off on the revised DOMA contract because she was "simply implementing the instructions included in ... the House rules package."
Wood pointed to the specific language in the rules package that authorizes the House legal advisory group to keep defending DOMA and "intervene in other cases" that may come up on the matter.
House Democratic leaders, meanwhile, sent a letter to Boehner later Tuesday voicing their opposition to sinking more money into DOMA's defense -- particularly given Republicans' calls for fiscal responsibility.
"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," reads the letter from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
"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," the letter continues. "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."
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