WASHINGTON (AP) -- The cost to taxpayers for a House Republican decision to fund the legal team supporting the Defense of Marriage Act has climbed from $500,000 to as much as $3 million, Democrats say in questioning the GOP stance on the gay marriage issue now before the Supreme Court.
"It's really disappointing and unworthy of a subject that is going before the Supreme Court of our country," House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday, referring to Republicans spending that money without input from House Democrats. Pelosi made the comments after emerging from the court hearing on whether to strike down parts of the 1996 law that denies married gay couples the federal benefits available to other couples.
She said Democrats had no input in several modifications to the legal contract that has increased the ceiling for spending on the legal defense of DOMA from the initial $500,000 to $3 million.
Shortly after the administration of President Barack Obama in early 2011 declared that DOMA was not constitutional, House Republicans convened a meeting of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group and, according to Pelosi, used their 3-2 majority to authorize funds to defend the law. Pelosi said the advisory group held no more meetings on the issue and that Republicans acted on their own to increase the funding ceiling as the case dragged on. Paul Clement, one of Washington's most prominent attorney's was hired to argue the case for DOMA supporters.
"Again, $3 million speaks very loudly, especially $3 million that has gone forth without benefit of a vote in the so-called Bipartisan (Legal) Advisory Group," Pelosi said.
House Speaker John Boehner, at a news conference last week, defended the GOP role in the lawsuit, saying that Congress passed the law in 1996, President Bill Clinton signed it, "and in our system of government, the administration doesn't get to decide what's constitutional. The Supreme Court does. And our financing the lawsuit was to make sure that the proper forum was used to make sure that we know what's constitutional and what isn't."
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., at a recent Appropriations subcommittee hearing on congressional budgets, also questioned why the House was spending up to $3 million to defend DOMA when the personal staff budgets of House lawmakers were being cut 8.2 percent because of automatic budget cuts.