A further three members of the U.S. House have written to House Speaker John Boehner asking that he reveal precisely how the $500,000 figure for defending Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was calculated and where those funds will be taken from.
The letter, sent Wednesday by three members of the Committee on House Administration, ranking member Robert A. Brady of (D-Pa.), and Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif) and Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas), also questions whether the $520-an-hour figure for lawyer Paul Clement’s defense of DOMA was correctly appropriated.
From the Hill:
“During a hearing of the Legislative Branch Appropriations subcommittee last week, we learned that this contract may violate the fundamental principle of the Anti-Deficiency Act by improperly committing taxpayer funds without appropriate authorization,” the letter stated. “We were also disturbed to learn that the House General Counsel’s office did not seek guidance from the Committee on Ethics regarding the 25 percent discount on non-attorney time provided by the contract, which still provides for more than $500 an hour in attorneys fees to be paid by taxpayers,” the letter continued.
As such, the House Democrats have requested that Boehner instruct the General Counsel to furnish the committee “a list of the hourly rate paid each employee of the Bancroft firm working on the litigation and an explanation on how the blended rate was calculated.
“The American people deserve a fuller explanation about the circumstances surrounding the decision to spend $500,000, and most likely much more, of their tax dollars to defend this indefensible statute,” the letter concluded.
The Hill also notes that Democratic legislators are interested in finding out why neither Democratic members of the Committee on House Administration nor the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group were consulted or even advised on the selection of a legal firm to defend DOMA — nor did they get a chance to review the contract, they say.
Rep. Mike Honda previously raised questions as to the legality of Boehner’s actions in appearing to have committed funds to the defense of DOMA without knowing where those funds will be coming from. Read more on that here.
Boehner has admitted he has no formal estimate on what the final cost of defending DOMA might be, but said that he aims to defund the Department of Justice to the tune of what it will cost, saying: “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.”
However, the DOJ has said the money that would have gone into defending Section 3 of DOMA has already been otherwise allocated.
A recent Human Rights Campaign poll found that a majority of Americans believe the House should focus on job creation rather than defending DOMA. Read more about that poll here.
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