Wasserman Schultz questioned why the government is spending $3 million to defend the Defense of Marriage Act at time when committee budgets are being slashed.
Kerry Kircher, the House’s general counsel who testified at the hearing, said that, thus far, the House has defended the constitutionality of DOMA in 15 legal challenges to the law in states such as California, New York and Connecticut at a cost of about $1.6 million. Kircher added that four lawyers from Bancroft and six lawyers in the House Office of General Counsel are working on the matter at a blended rate of about $525 an hour.
“I’m a little stunned that we’re cutting back on everything else and we are getting involved in all these cases that are clearly on the wrong side of history,” Moran said at the hearing.
Cutbacks to congressional operating budgets were already being felt on Capitol Hill, but this month’s widespread sequester cuts came with additional hits. Cuts to the Capitol Police budget forced the agency to close a number of entrance and exit points into the Capitol complex to save overtime pay, causing long lines and frustration for staff and visitors. At the same time, sequester-caused cuts to Members’ Representational Allowances have forced many members to freeze hiring and staff salaries, as well as cut back on constituent services.
Although the hearing devolved into a debate over the merits of the DOMA defense funding, it was originally meant for the offices of the House sergeant-at-arms, the House clerk and the House chief administrative officer to defend their budget requests for fiscal 2014. The SAA requested $12.6 million, the clerk $24 million and the CAO $123.5 million.
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.