Tax-Payers dollars wasted over House hearings

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Charlie at Georgies last week

US CapitolCongressional Republicans are obsessed with LGBT issues.

There is the saying in baseball, “three strikes and you’re out”. As an idiom, it has become part of the vernacular mirroring the game where an effort is considered exhausted after three tries. So it is with the Republicans in Congress. They have held a total of three hearings to examine lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues as these impact the morality of the nation. Have they now exhausted their efforts to derail the opposition to the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)?

According to the  Washington Blade article “Boehner suggests the House marriage hearing is ‘legitimate'” by Chris Johnson, published on Apr 14, in a response to a question when asked about the use of tax-payer funds for the hearing, Boehner replied, “There are a lot of committees, a lot of hearings. As I made it clear from the beginning of this year, the committee process is important to this institution, and I think addressing any question – serious question – in American society is legitimate.”

Boehner didn’t address why the Republican controlled Congress felt that it needed to hold three separate hearings on LGBT issues: two hearings following the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and the Administration’s decision not to defend any challenges to DOMA.

According to an earlier article by the Blade, when in February Eric Holder, the Attorney General, informed Congress that the President would no longer be defending DOMA; the Speaker hired an attorney, Paul Clement, to represent the Administration. Clement’s fee was capped at $500,000, which was a blended cost of $520 per hour, and which could be increased by mutual agreement. Boehner announced on Apr 18 that he planned to cut the Department of Justice (DOJ) budget to pay for defense of DOMA.

On Apr 19, Kat Long reported in an article in the New York Examiner that Boehner asked the DOJ in a letter to defray the cost of representation in the case of Windsor versus United States, “The burden of defending DOMA, and the resulting costs associated with any litigation that would have otherwise been born (sic) by DOJ, has fallen to the House. Obviously, DOJ’s decision results in DOJ no longer needing the funds it would have otherwise expended defending the constitutionality of DOMA.  It is my intent that those funds be diverted to the House for reimbursement of any costs incurred by and associated with the House, and not DOJ, defending DOMA.”

The Administration is not offering any defense of Section 3 of the Act, which is the same section before the courts in the Windsor case, and for which Boehner hired Clement. Long wrote  that Edie Windsor, 81, survives her partner, Thea Spyer, whom she married in Canada in 2007 and who died in 2009, and because their marriage was not recognized by the government, she had to pay an estimated $363,000 in estate taxes; costs, which Windsor said heterosexual married couples do not have to pay. Unconfirmed sources suggest that based on estimates from the 111th Congress, which has an annual budget of $19 million, with 151 hearings, each cost an average $125,000.

The hearings, characterized as deliberately anti-gay, the Blade article quoted Michael Cole-Schwartz, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, as saying in response to Boehner’s remarks that the upcoming hearing will “no doubt showcase the [Republican] majority’s obsession with ensuring continued discrimination against same-sex couples.”

“They’re welcome to think that’s a legitimate way to spend their time but the vast majority of Americans will be scratching their heads wondering why House Republicans have held a third hearing in as many weeks to demonize LGBT people,” Cole-Schwartz said.

To bolster their cause, the Republicans, in the two out of three anti-gay witnesses they have called to testify, declared their intent on the outcome of the hearing. The two avowed opponents of marriage equality, according to Johnson, are Maggie Gallagher, chair of the National Organization for Marriage, who previously testified before Congress against same-sex marriage and has a history of anti-gay activism; and Edward Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, who as a former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia and a high-ranking legal adviser in the Justice Department for former President George W. Bush, wrote several anti-gay tracts. The sole opponent of the anti-gay crusade, Johnson said, is Rutgers University professor Carlos Ball, a gay law professor at Rutgers Law School, who said that he plans to argue in his testimony that Obama rightfully determined that DOMA is unconstitutional and that the president shouldn’t defend the law in court. Ball said it is unusual for an administration to decide not to defend the constitutionality of the statute, but it is by no means unprecedented.

“In my view, any administration has a constitutional obligation to make an independent judgment on the constitutionality of certain statutes, especially when there is no clear law on whether the statutes are constitutional or not. DOMA is a “constitutionally indefensible statute” because the states have traditionally enjoyed the prerogative of regulating marriage. What the plaintiffs in these DOMA lawsuits are saying is not that they have a federal constitutional right to marry – that’s not the issue. These couples are already married under the laws of their states. What they are arguing is that the federal government should not discriminate against their marriages when it comes to federal governments. The administration has concluded that it’s unconstitutional to treat differently, and I think they’re absolutely correct,” Ball said to Johnson.

Commenting on Johnson’s article, Scott Rose said that the Republican position on this matter is known, “they want to perpetuate the anti-gay discrimination. Where the use of tax money to hold this kangaroo “hearing” is especially objectionable is that much of that tax money comes from gay people and others who support their rights. The enlightened are being forced to pay for the bigoted to hold a kangaroo hearing over civil rights for gay people.”

But the Rolling Stone magazine article “The Crying Shame of John Boehner” published on Jan 5 by Matt Taibbi, cast shadows of compromised integrity over the Speaker, indicating that he relishes spending tax-payer money, “John Boehner is the ultimate Beltway hack, a man whose unmatched and self-serving skill at political survival has made him, after two decades in Washington, the hairy blue mold on the American congressional sandwich. He’s a lazy, double-talking shill for corporate interests,” and which examined Boehner’s position as Speaker of the House, who is as much a Washington insider accustomed to manipulating, bending and twisting others as long as he benefits financially. The article said that Boehner is desperately fighting to hold on to his position for fear of challenges from some of the Tea Party Republicans who are already unhappy with how he has handled several different issues.

“Others in Washington see Boehner not so much as a bloodless partisan but as a clueless yutz, one who rose to power through a combination of accidents and bureaucratic inertia,” said Taibbi in his article. “John Boehner is business as usual, a man devoted almost exclusively to ensuring his own political survival by tending faithfully to the corrupt and clanking Beltway machinery. Boehner just represents a certain type of hollowly driven, two-faced personality unique to the Beltway; he’s the kind of guy who would step over his mother to score a political point.”

In the interest of wasting tax-payers money, Taibbi reported Congressional sources as saying that Boehner likes to knock off early, and that seems to square with his record, which reveals a real passion – for the links: “He once went on 180 junkets in six years, most of them golf trips, and reportedly copped to playing 100 rounds a year at a time when he was collecting a six-figure salary, paid for by the U.S. taxpayer, to serve in Congress.”

US CapitolCongressional Republicans are obsessed with LGBT issues.

There is the saying in baseball, “three strikes and you’re out”. As an idiom, it has become part of the vernacular mirroring the game where an effort is considered exhausted after three tries. So it is with the Republicans in Congress. They have held a total of three hearings to examine lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues as these impact the morality of the nation. Have they now exhausted their efforts to derail the opposition to the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)?