House Democratic leaders slammed Speaker John Boehner today for "secretly" raising the cap on the legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act to $3 million.
In a letter signed by House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the two Democratic members of the Republican-controlled Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) called the "Republican-led campaign to defend DOMA" a "practice in futility and a waste of Americans' hard-earned tax dollars."
"This is not the first time that House Republicans have made a unilateral decision to raise the ceiling on expenditures for this wasteful litigation that supports a discriminatory statute, without any public discussion or advance notice to Democratic members of the BLAG, Members of the House, or the public," the House Democrats wrote. "This clandestine commitment of taxpayer funds is highly irregular and objectionable, and it must end now."
Pelosi and Hoyer urged Boehner to exercise transparency in their dealings with outside legal counsel as well.
"Until Republicans decide to abandon this effort once and for all, we ask you to make your legal plans clear; to make public every contract signed with outside counsel in this case in a timely manner; to declare the total cost of this case to the taxpayers; and to abide by the highest standards of transparency and accountability," Pelosi and Hoyer wrote.
According to Pelosi's office, late Monday House Democrats learned that Republicans had "secretly increased" the contract with a private law firm defending DOMA in court to $3 million. The revelation comes after it was revealed last month that House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) signed off on a $500,000 increase in funds for DOMA’s defense.
The House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which is controlled by Republicans, has been at the forefront of defending DOMA since the Obama administration’s February 2011 decision to stop defending the law on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. With arguments scheduled to begin on the DOMA case before the Supreme Court in March, Pelosi and Hoyer state "it is only a matter of time before this offensive law is a discarded relic of a bygone era."
[Photo: Nancy Pelosi (Courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives).]