Speaker of the House John Boehner has contracted high-profile conservative attorney Paul Clement to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act on behalf of the House of Representatives. Boehner has agreed to initially pay Clement up to $500,000 to defend the law, although analysts say that figure is sure to rise. The Colorado-based Christian-right organization Focus on the Family celebrated the arrangement, touting Clement’s résumé as one of the nation’s top attorneys.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it just doesn’t get any better on a Monday than to hear that the House of Representatives has selected Paul Clement as its outside counsel to take on the defense of DOMA,” wrote Focus blogger Bruce Hausknecht on Monday. “Clement’s resume’ reads like a lawyer’s fantasy: Georgetown, Cambridge, Harvard Law, Scalia law clerk, Solicitor General of the United States, even acting Attorney General of the United States – for a day!”
Clement is a partner at international firm King & Spaulding, which represents major multinational businesses and employs more than 800 attorneys. The firm’s billing reportedly reaches upwards of $900 per hour for top personnel.
The Obama Administration Justice Department announced in February that it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court because it believes the law unconstitutionally discriminates against gay citizens. Boehner responded by declaring that the House would defend the act, and asked this week for a part of the Justice Department budget to pay Clement.
Legal analysts have suggested it will be very difficult to defend DOMA against charges of unconstitutionality given legal precedent being set in courts around the country. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi decried Boehner for even trying, given that the controversial position is sure to distract from the crisis-level economic and fiscal matters demanding to be addressed by lawmakers.
“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,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill told the Huffington Post.
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese told the Huffington Post that the number of DOMA cases lining up suggest Clement will end up costing Congress much more than the initial $500,000 Boehner has agreed to pay him.
Ed Whelan, president of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributor to the National Review blog, was reportedly the first to suggest Boehner tap Justice Department funds to pay outside counsel. He made the suggestion during a “Defending Marriage” House hearing last Friday:
The Department’s irresponsible course of action is fully to blame for the House’s need to incur legal fees in defending DOMA. Thus, although it is refreshing to witness concerns of fiscal frugality from some members of the House not ordinarily associated with such concerns, those concerns are misdirected if they are deployed to question or oppose the House’s retention of counsel. The far more sensible course is for the House to make clear that the sum to be appropriated for the Department will be reduced by the sum expended on legal fees in defense of DOMA—or, better yet, by some healthy multiple of that sum.
Think Progress posted a montage of video from the hearing at which Whelan testified. He appears at 2:30. (Full video is available here.)
Tea party voters concerned primarily with fiscal matters swept a record number of Republicans into Congress last November. The new GOP majority, however, has dedicated itself above all to pushing repeated flash-point partisan social legislation.
Since January, Republicans have introduced several bills attempting to block access to abortion, for example. One of the bills attempted to redefine rape to only include “forcible” attacks. Another bill sought to reintroduce the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy repealed in December that barred gay soldiers from serving openly.
Republicans also introduced three bills to defund public broadcasting for its supposed liberal bias. And this month, they placed a provision that would have stripped funding from Planned Parenthood — the top women’s reproductive health organization in the country — at the center of the just-passed federal budget showdown.