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Democrats Blast Increased House Legal Fees for Defense of DOMA

Two top House Democrats are criticizing House Republicans for spending additional taxpayer funds to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

On Jan. 4, Rep. Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., the new chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, approved a contract with the law firm Bancroft PLLC increasing the agreed-upon ceiling on fees for defense of the law from $2 million to $3 million.

In a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner Tuesday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland said they should have been consulted before the agreement was signed.

Both Democratic lawmakers are members of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which decides how the House acts in court. BLAG is comprised of three members of the majority party leadership in the House and two members of the minority party leadership.

“This is not the first time that House Republicans have made a unilateral decision to raise the ceiling on expenditures for this wasteful litigation that supports a discriminatory statute, without any public discussion or advance notice to Democratic members of the BLAG, Members of the House, or the public,” Pelosi and Hoyer wrote.

On Dec. 7, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case over DOMA, United States v. Windsor.

In granting the petition for writ of certiorari, the court asked parties to the suit to argue not just the constitutionality of DOMA, but also whether the House has standing to defend it in court.

The expanded scope of the argument is one reason for the increase in fees, according to a Republican source.

Ordinarily, the Justice Department defends the constitutionality of laws in court using taxpayer funds. In this case, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in February 2011 that President Barack Obama had decided the law was unconstitutional and ordered the DOJ to stop defending it in court.

DOMA was signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton.

Hoyer, whose daughter announced she was gay last year, voted for DOMA, something he has since called a mistake.

An earlier version of this report misstated the day the contract was approved. While the contract was signed on Jan. 3, it was not approved until Jan. 4.

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