Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is calling on House speaker John Boehner to make public the estimated cost of hiring private attorneys as part of the Republican leadership's defense of the Defense of Marriage Act.
"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," Pelosi wrote in a Friday letter to the speaker.
Earlier this week, Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, the two Democrats on the five-member House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, voted against authorizing the House to defend the 1996 law in court.
The advisory group's three Republican members — Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy — all voted to authorize the House general counsel to intervene in multiple federal lawsuits against DOMA as well as retain outside counsel (full text of the vote can be found here).
Atty. Gen. Eric Holder announced last month that the Obama administration concluded that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.
Pelosi's letter, in full:
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.