Half a Million to Defend DOMA Isn't That Much

Left-wing media outlets are assailing House Speaker Boehner for paying white-shoe lawyer Paul Clement $530  $520 an hour -- and up to $500,000 -- for defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court. Here’s Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress:

The House GOP’s decision to stand by this unconstitutional assault on gay families is indefensible, and it is made all the worse by their fiscally reckless decision to hire one of the most expensive lawyers in America. Indeed, it wasn’t even necessary for the Republicans to hire a law firm at all to represent their anti-gay position. The U.S. House’s Office of General Counsel already employs a team of exceptionally competent lawyers who are all perfectly capable of drafting and filing a legal brief, and none of these lawyers earn more than a fraction of Clement’s multi-million dollar salary.

First, as despicable as DOMA might be, Congress has the right to step in and defend its laws if the president declines to do so. Thinking that the current Republican House wouldn’t step in is as implausible as thinking they would vote to overturn it, which failing to defend it would effectively do.

And sure, maybe the House should rely on its in-house lawyers to defend DOMA since the Obama administration has declined to do so, but calling the decision “fiscally reckless” is a bit much. Congress’ annual operating budget is about $5 billion. Half a million is about .001 percent of that. Plus, to deflect criticism, Boehner is seeking to fund the legal defense with funds diverted from the Justice Department.

I understand the politics of trying to paint Boehner as a hypocrite on the deficit, but the real issue is that DOMA is still around -- not that defending it is getting in the way of our supposed fiscal security.

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