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Pelosi calls on Boehner to disclose taxpayer cost of defending DOMA

Nancy Pelosi wants Speaker of the House John Boehner to let taxpayers know how much his decision to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court will cost them.

On March 9, a five-member panel appointed by Boehner voted 3-2 along party lines to instruct the House’s nonpartisan Office of the General Counsel to defend the 1996 law banning recognition of same-sex marriage at the federal level. The White House announced on Feb. 23 that the Department of Justice is dropping its defense of the law because it agrees with previous court decisions finding parts of it unconstitutional.

Pelosi and fellow Democrat Steny Hoyer voted against the move.

Boehner’s decision to spend what will amount to millions on defending DOMA, despite the GOP’s contention that the government is in a dire financial crisis, came just one day after anti-gay crusader Richard Land and other far-right evangelical leaders commanded him to do so, according to a Baptist Press news service report.

“The constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts – not by the president unilaterally ­ and this action by the House will ensure the matter is addressed in a manner consistent with our Constitution,” Boehner said in a written statement that failed to mention the prior court rulings.

In response, House Democratic Leader Pelosi issued the following public letter to Boehner:

“Dear Mr. Speaker:

The House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) voted this week by a 3-2 margin to direct the House General Counsel to initiate a legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). As you know, the Democratic members of the BLAG voted against directing the House Counsel to initiate the costly defense of a statute which many believe to be unconstitutional under the Equal Protection clause.

“While respecting the role of the BLAG to make such decisions, I disagree in this circumstance because of the number of cases, at least 10. There are numerous parties who will continue to litigate these ongoing cases regardless of the involvement of the House. No institutional purpose is served by having the House of Representatives intervene in this litigation, which will consume 18 months or longer. As we noted, the constitutionality of this statute will be determined by the courts, regardless of whether the House chooses to intervene.

“The resolution passed by the BLAG also directs the House General Counsel to hire private lawyers rather than utilize his own office to represent the House. The General Counsel indicated that he lacked the personnel and the budget to absorb those substantial litigation duties. “It is important that the House receive an estimate of the cost to taxpayers for engaging private lawyers to intervene in the pending DOMA cases. It is also important that the House know whether the BLAG, the General Counsel, or a Committee of the House have the responsibility to monitor the actions of the outside lawyers and their fees.

“The American people want Congress to be working on the creation of jobs and ensuring the continued progress of our economic recovery rather than involving itself unnecessarily in such costly and divisive litigation.

“Thank you for your responses to these questions concerning the cost and oversight of the litigation as it proceeds through the courts.”

Nancy Pelosi

Democratic Leader of Congress


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