Nancy Pelosi points out that the House resolution to take up the legal defense of DOMA allows the House to hire private lawyers. She sees ten cases taking an average of 18 months each, times the number of lawyers necessary for each case, times the number of billable hours each will put into the case, times the cost per hour of a private lawyer trained in constitutional law, equals... a lot of money.
It's not a huge amount in the grand scheme of the federal budget, but definitely a nice sack of money to thank whichever loyal-to-the-GOP law firms Boehner would like to reward. Doesn't the House itself have lawyers who could be taking up these cases? Or are they not allowed to do it because they're government employees and any good Republican knows that any job a government worker can do a private-sector worker can do
for twice the price twice as well.
The cost here won't break the bank or anything (although it would be nice that when the Republicans feel like spending money on nothing that it at least create jobs for the unemployed instead of giving more work to the already-employed), but it is nice to see some attention paid to this in the same way that it would be paid to, say, Nancy Pelosi having a plane to go back to her district with.
Also, Pelosi says, "There are numerous parties who will continue to litigate these ongoing cases regardless of the involvement of the House." Who are these parties? Listening to the mainstream media and the right talk about it, DOMA's as good as dead right now. But it's still being enforced because the president simply doesn't have the power to rule a law unconstitutional. One wouldn't know that if one were only listening to the Log Cabin Republicans:
"Log Cabin Republicans has always stood against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, not only for its infringement upon the freedom of all Americans, but also as an unconstitutional intrusion on states' rights," said R. Clarke Cooper, Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans. "The decision by the House of Representatives to appoint a special counsel ensures that the legal process will be carried through and that the Courts will determine the constitutionality of this law, rather than selective judgment by the President. Given how controversial marriage equality remains at this time, with polls showing the nation evenly divided on the issue, nobody should be surprised that Congress has decided to exercise its legal right, and some would say duty, to defend the law. We are confident that this law will ultimately be overturned despite any defense presented by House counsel, and will continue to work with our allies in Congress to advocate for legislative repeal. With that decided, it is critical that Congress not waste anymore time on the president's efforts to distract Republicans with divisive social issues, and instead return to working on the issues that matter most: jobs and the economy."
It's a fine line they're walking there, saying they think DOMA is unconstitutional but are against Obama saying it's unconstitutional. Most people don't get mad at the president of the United States for agreeing with them, but then most people aren't Log Cabin Republicans.
In related news, a DOMA repeal bill will be introduced in the House Wednesday.
Here's the full letter:
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.