The cost of House Republicans' defense of the Defense of Marriage Act could reach $2 million or more, thanks to a decision by leaders to extend their previous $1.5 million cap to allow for additional litigation costs.
Although approved in September, the new contract was first reported by Roll Call Thursday.
Since the Obama administration stopped defending the law in 2011, House Republicans have been funding its defense in several cases, including a 1996 suit by Edith Windsor of New York that is slated to be heard by the Supreme Court.
House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren of California, without consulting Democrats, authorized an increase of the amount of money outside lawyers are authorized to spend to defend DOMA to $2 million.
The news came just hours after Boehner even refused to say if the cap would be raised about $1.5 million, saying only, "If the Justice Department is not going to enforce the law of the land, the Congress will."
The House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group — which consists of Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer — has taken all its actions to defend the law with the opposition of the two Democratic members.
The contract modification, a copy of which was provided to BuzzFeed by Pelosi's office, was signed on Sept. 24 by House General Counsel Kerry Kircher and the outside lawyer BLAG hired to defend the law, Paul Clement of Bancroft PLLC. Lungren approved the change on Sept. 28.
Pelosi, who has opposed the defense, attacked, "It’s bad enough that Speaker Boehner and House Republicans are wasting taxpayer dollars to defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act – and losing in every case. Now, they have reached a new low – signing a secret contract to spend more public money on their legal boondoggle without informing Democrats. Their actions are simply unconscionable; their decisions are utterly irresponsible."
Pelosi also criticized that the move was made during the fall elections, saying, "Hiding this contract from voters in the midst of an election season was a cynical move at best, and a betrayal of the public trust at worst. With Americans focused on the creation of jobs and the growth of our economy, Republicans should not be spending $2 million to defend discrimination in our country."
Despite Pelosi and Hoyer's opposition, and consistent action taken without consultation with Democrats on BLAG or the House Administration Committee, Politico reported earlier this week that "Boehner spokesman Michael Steel suggested there is no reason defending the law should be seen as a GOP project."
"The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group is bipartisan," Politico quoted Steel as saying.
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at email@example.com.
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