The Republican-led House has agreed to pay a law firm up to $520 per hour to defend the Defense of Marriage Act banning federal recognition of same sex marriage, according to a contract posted by Politico.
Some quick background: The Defense of Marriage Act, the 15-year-old federal law that defines marriage as being between one man and one woman, is currently facing a legal challenge in New York. Traditionally the federal government defends challenges to federal law, but not in this case - after defending it for two years, the Obama administration announced in February.
That decision left House Republicans, who largely oppose same-sex marriage, without "any choice" but to step in and defend the law, in the words of House Speaker John Boehner. In a letter earlier this week, Boehner, though that is not likely to happen.
Asked last month if Department of Justice would save money by not defending DOMA, Attorney General Eric Holder told the House Appropriations committee, "I'm not sure we save any money, frankly."
"The people who would be defending the statute, were we to do that, are career employees of the Department of Justice, who will not be spending their time doing that; they will be spending their time doing other things," he said. "I'm not sure that I see any savings as a result of the decision that I announced with the president."
The contract shows that the House has agreed to pay the firm King & Spalding up to $500,000 for its services in defending DOMA. It also says that Paul Clement, a partner at the firm, "will be principally responsible for conducting the Litigation."
As Josh Gerstein notes, Clement was Solicitor General under President George W. Bush.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent Boehner a letter late Monday saying that "The House of Representatives need not enter into this lengthy and costly litigation." After the contract was revealed, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill cast House Republicans as wasting money despite their claims of fiscal responsibility.
"The hypocrisy of this legal boondoggle is mind-blowing," he said. "Speaker Boehner is spending half a million dollars of taxpayer money to defend discrimination. If Republicans were really interested in cutting spending, this should be at the top of the list."
Responded Boehner Spokesman Michael Steel: "Obviously, this whole thing would be unnecessary if the White House and the Justice Department would do their job and defend a law that was passed by both Houses of Congress and signed by the President of the United States - a Democratic President, at that."