“I don’t know whether that would require more expenditure of funds, but it is a serious argument that has to be seriously dealt with,” said Lungren, who lost his re-election bid and will be succeeded as head of the committee next year by Rep. Candice S. Miller, R-Mich.
Other observers, however, have said that the taxpayer costs of the legal defense may taper off now that the high court has stepped in, since the justices’ review of the law has put similar cases in the lower courts on hold.
The question of taxpayer costs has been a delicate one for House Republicans, who have remained largely silent on DOMA even as Democrats have sharply criticized them for using public money to defend the statute. Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, was asked about the rising costs at a news conference Thursday, but gave a one-sentence reply.
“If the Justice Department is not going to enforce the law of the land, the Congress will,” Boehner said.
House Republicans initially said they would tap the Justice Department’s budget to mount their legal defense of the marriage law, since it was the department that stopped defending the statute.
In reality, however, much of the funding for the legal defense has come from the legislative branch budget — specifically, from the “salaries, officers and employees” account of the Chief Administrative Officer, according to congressional testimony.
The House tapped $742,000 from that account to pay for its defense of the marriage law, Chief Administrative Officer Dan Strodel testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee in March.
Since that time, the costs for the legal defense have increased sharply. But it is unclear whether the additional money also has been transferred from the Chief Administrative Officer’s budget or from other sources. A spokesman for the Chief Administrative Officer could not immediately confirm that the additional funding came from the agency’s budget.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.