House GOP spending $500,000 in taxpayer money to defend DOMA

Remember how the GOP’s top priority right now is creating jobs? Oh wait, nevermind. Remember how the GOP’s top priority right now is reducing the deficit? I mean, as long as it’s done mainly solely by cutting spending, instead of raising taxes on the wealthy? Ya know, “make the tough choices,” “tighten our belts” and all that jazz? Remember that?

Well, here’s the latest update from the Hypocrisy Watch Unit of the Misplaced Priorities Department. The Huffington Post reports that House Republicans plan to pay an independent law firm up to $500,000 of taxpayer money to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) since the Obama administration instructed the Justice Department to stop defending it in February.

And as Joe Solmonese of the HRC points out, given that there are at least 9 cases currently challenging the constitutionality of DOMA, even at a discounted (!) hourly rate of $520, that figure will probably end up being a “lowball estimate.”

Speaker Boehner whines that this wouldn’t be necessary if the Justice Department would “just do their job” and defend the law. (Tell me about it. I hate it when the DOJ won’t just defend unconstitutional laws. Such a drag.) Nancy Pelosi’s spokesperson fires back:

“The hypocrisy of this legal boondoggle is mind-blowing. Speaker Boehner is spending half a million dollars of taxpayer money to defend discrimination. If Republicans were really interested in cutting spending, this should be at the top of the list.”

Of course, this just the latest evidence that they are not, in fact, as interested in cutting spending as they are in cutting spending for the programs they don’t like. Boehner may justify the cuts to thing like education, Head Start, WIC, infrastructure, job training, community health centers, homelessness assistance, etc. by claiming we’re “broke.” But clearly, we are not.

Sure, that half a million dollars wouldn’t exactly make a dent in reducing the deficit. But this budget fight is–and always has been–about our priorities as a nation. And I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that there are quite literally limitless better ways for our government to spend $500,000. Now, unlike some anti-choicers I could mention, I don’t believe that my personal beliefs should automatically dictate how taxpayer money gets spent. But here are some ideas that I think most Americans could get behind…

Put it towards family planning programs. Result: Save the government nearly $2 million down the road. Prevent about 520 unintended pregnancies and nearly 220 abortions.

Put it towards the Pell Grant program. Result: Help 100 additional students from low-income families get a higher education.

Put it towards SNAP, the federal food stamps program. Result: Ensure about 1,700 families of four living in poverty don’t go hungry this month. Stimulate over $900,000 in local economic activity.

Donate it to a few randomly selected bars in the U.S. Result: 125,000 lucky Americans unexpectedly get a free pint after a long day at work.

Commission an artist to create a paper mache sculpture with the dollar bills. Result: DC gets some new public art. Local artist gets a job. Government doesn’t defend discrimination.

Only 34% of the public supports DOMA. A mere 5% consider “defending marriage” a priority. In the very near future, DOMA will take its place in the dustbin of shameful, discriminatory laws in America’s past. Spending even $1 to defend it is wasteful. Giving that $500,000 to these eagles to build their nest would probably be money better spent.

What would you like to see the money go to instead of defending discrimination?

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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