On Thursday news broke that former House Administration Committee Chairman Dan Lungren (R. Calif.) – who lost his seat on November 6 – made an agreement in secret to increase by $500,000 the government’s budget to handle the defense of a 1996 federal law, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
The Roll Call report details how Lungren authorized the increase to the Defense of Marriage Act legal fund in secret, even as he publicly railed against spending. In February, Lungren helped orchestrate a deal to cut committee spending in the House by 6.4%, saying, “all of our constituents need us to do more with less and to rein in government spending. Families have been required to tighten their belts, and they constantly ask us to do the very same thing."
The Supreme Court agreed on December 7 to hear arguments and evaluate the constitutionality of the law, which has raised immense speculation as to what options they possess in reaching their decision.
The U.S. Department of Justice has not defended the 1996 law since February 2011, when it decided that it believed that Section 3 of DOMA, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage, was unconstitutional.
The updated contract now authorizes Bancroft LLC and Republican Paul Clement, former solicitor general, to spend up to $2 million in defense of DOMA, double the original agreement.
Lungren’s secret bill hike was authorized in September, prior to the November general elections. It does not take a genius to theorize that Lungren (and other Republicans) wanted to publicly avoid being seen increasing what is widely seen as an unnecessary bill to defend an unwanted law.
In 2011 a poll conducted by the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research found that 52% of Americans oppose DOMA. Just 34% support it. And 54% of Americans, an even higher percentage, opposed Republican efforts to defend the law in court.
Continued Republican opposition to gay marriage is not even politically effective. According to a poll released Wednesday by Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank, Obama’s public support of gay marriage actually helped the president win with independents in Washington state.
The poll shows that 30% of self-described moderates said that Obama’s position made them "much" or "somewhat more likely" to vote for him, as opposed to a mere 6% who said it made them much more "somewhat less likely" to support him. Of course, only some Republicans realize that the gay marriage strategy is counterproductive.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., railed against Lungren’s decision:
“It’s bad enough that Speaker Boehner and House Republicans are wasting taxpayer dollars to defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act – and losing in every case. Now, they have reached a new low – signing a secret contract to spend more public money on their legal boondoggle without informing Democrats. Their actions are simply unconscionable; their decisions are utterly irresponsible.”
“Hiding this contract from voters in the midst of an election season was a cynical move at best, and a betrayal of the public trust at worst. With Americans focused on the creation of jobs and the growth of our economy, Republicans should not be spending $2 million to defend discrimination in our country.”
So, to recap: the GOP authorized half a million dollars to continue legal support of an unpopular law that the Justice Department declined to defend, in secret, while telling the public they were opposed to wasteful spending.
Republicans tell you that they are concerned about spending, but their actions speak differently.