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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 19, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 42
BLAG goes broke
Section One
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BLAG goes broke

House DOMA defenders have maxed out their budget

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The so-called Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), charged with defending DOMA by Republican House Speaker John Boehner, has spent a total of $1,447,996.73 to date. Its contract with the outside attorneys who actually handle court arguments is capped at $1.5 million.

BLAG is technically a standing committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, which supervises the House General Counsel. BLAG may be convened when the House leadership wants to give direction to counsel in a particular case. Before taking on the defense of DOMA, it was last active in 2006, when it directed the General Counsel to file a petition for the return of documents seized from Rep. William Jefferson in an FBI corruption investigation.

NOT REALLY BIPARTISAN
In February 2011, Boehner convened the group to hire attorneys to defend DOMA after President Obama and the U.S. Justice Department determined that the federal law is unconstitutional. Although the group is bipartisan in the sense that both Republicans and Democrats serve on it, Republicans control both the House as a whole and its committees. The decision to defend DOMA was a strict party-line vote.

Since BLAG's contract with its attorneys is nearing its cap, the House will have to vote additional funding if Boehner wants to continue fighting lawsuits to overturn DOMA.

DEMOCRATS RESISTANT
The top two Democrats in the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, have criticized Republican leaders for wasting taxpayers' money defending the law when every court that has ruled on it to date has found it unconstitutional.

'The American people should no longer have to foot the bill for Speaker Boehner's campaign to appease the most conservative forces within the Republican Party,' Pelosi said in a statement released October 16.

'It is time for the Speaker and Congressional Republicans to drop their frivolous, taxpayer-funded lawsuits without any delay. When they do, we will all look forward to the day when DOMA is relegated to the dustbin of history once and for all.'

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), primary sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA, called on Boehner to support his measure.

'Speaker Boehner has wasted more than a year, and more than $1.5 million taxpayer dollars, defending DOMA,' Nadler said.

BOEHNER 0-FOR-5
'So far, he has lost five cases in a row, as every court has ruled that there is no legitimate justification for this law. Every day, DOMA harms thousands of American couples and their children. Instead of wasting taxpayer money defending this unjust law in court, Speaker Boehner should join us in our effort to repeal it.'

HRC Legislative Director Allison Herwitt said that continuing to defend DOMA runs counter to the changing tide in public opinion on marriage equality.

'In poll after poll, we see that voters do not view marriage equality as a critical issue for lawmakers, likely because a good majority of the country already supports it,' Herwitt said.

'The American people need job creation and infrastructure improvements. Instead of focusing on the real problems that impact people's livelihood, Speaker Boehner and House Republicans are funneling money into an issue that does nothing to improve conditions for the millions of Americans in need of help, and actually harms loving and committed same-sex couples looking to start their own families.'

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