Skip to content

Trio of Democrats Joins Pelosi in Grilling Boehner on DOMA Defense

Updated: 6:47 p.m.

Democratic members of the House Administration Committee pressed Speaker John Boehner for details Tuesday regarding his hiring of a lawyer to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

In a letter sent to the Ohio Republican, the three Democrats on the panel blasted Boehner for retaining former Solicitor General Paul Clement as the lead attorney to defend DOMA in pending court cases, which would cost up to $500,000 under the terms of the contract.

“We should be creating jobs for the American people, not spending half a million taxpayer dollars — and likely much more — defending discrimination,” Reps. Robert Brady (Pa.), Zoe Lofgren (Calif.) and Charlie Gonzalez (Texas) wrote.

The law firm King & Spalding had initially agreed to defend DOMA for the House, but it backed out Monday under intense criticism from gay rights organizations. Clement, who was working for King & Spalding, then resigned and joined Bancroft, a smaller Washington-based law firm. He is expected to continue to represent the House in DOMA cases.

The Democratic lawmakers pressed Boehner for details about the hire and contended that the House and the Administration Committee did not properly vet Clement.

“It is abundantly clear that ‘inadequate vetting’ of the contract occurred not only at King & Spalding, as its chairman admitted in withdrawing from the contract, but also in the Congress whose Members were unaware a contract had been signed,” the lawmakers wrote. “We are particularly concerned, as the Democratic Members for the Committee on House Administration, that we were not informed of such a contract nor given the opportunity to review its provisions, including the as much as $500,000 cost.”

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also pressed Boehner for details regarding the cost in a pair of letters to the Speaker last week. The Administration Committee Democrats asked similar questions, in addition to seeking information about any new contract with Clement at Bancroft. They also wanted to know whether the House Ethics Committee would review any such contract.

The trio also asked when Boehner was notified that King & Spalding planned to back out of its contract and whether any fees were associated with the termination.

Boehner announced last week that Clement would defend DOMA, the 1996 law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, in a series of pending court cases. Boehner’s decision, on behalf of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, came in response to President Barack Obama’s announcement last month that his administration would no longer defend the law in court. Boehner reiterated his commitment to defend the law Monday when spokesman Brendan Buck issued a statement praising Clement.

“Mr. Clement has demonstrated legal integrity, and we are grateful for his decision to continue representing the House,” Buck said. “This move will ensure the constitutionality of this law is appropriately determined by the courts, rather than by the President unilaterally.”

House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren also thanked Clement for his commitment to the House while criticizing King & Spalding.

“King and Spalding’s cut and run approach is inexcusable and an insult to the legal profession,” the California Republican said in a statement Monday. “Less than one week after the contract was approved engaging the firm, they buckled under political pressure and bailed with little regard for their ethical and legal obligations. Fortunately, Clement does not share the same principles.”