Conservative celebrity Sarah Palin and right-wing blogger Erick Erickson are just two of the high profile far-right leaders disparaging Speaker of the House John Boehner for the budget deal he hammered out with President Obama and Democratic Senate leaders last week. Colorado “liberty movement” talk radio hosts are unhappy. Colorado Tea Party freshmen Congressmen Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner as well as Colorado Springs conservative Doug Lamborn broke with the Speaker and voted against the budget. But Boehner can’t go back on the deal and he won’t likely win over the Tiptons and Palins and Ericksons with a lecture on the delayed gratification of budget cutting and the difference between outlays and spending. On the contrary, it would just make him seem more establishment. So instead, Boehner followed the lead of GOP presidential hopefuls and took a provocative and distracting stand against gay rights.
The Speaker grabbed headlines Monday by sending a letter to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi asking that the House cut funds for the Justice Department because it declared it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court. Attorney General Holder months ago declared he believed the 1996 law unconstitutionally discriminated against gay people when it made same-sex marriage illegal.
“It is my intent 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 House Judiciary Committee on Friday held hearings on why DOMA must be defended even as analysis of the budget deal Boehner made with Democrats started to fill the airwaves and draw out harsh critics on the right.
Boehner won’t get the Justice Department money because the request is absurd on a practical level. Justice Departments always prioritize cases and there’s no easy way to calculate what Justice may be saving or spending by not taking the DOMA cases.
GOP presidential hopefuls meantime are waging their own practically hopeless but politically advantageous war on gay rights.
Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have all said in the last weeks that they would reinstate the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy that banned gay soldiers from serving openly, even though the Pentagon is moving full speed ahead to make the repeal passed last December a reality and to do so on schedule by the fall.
No matter, as Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly notes, even though most Americans favored the repeal and even though the repeal passed with bipartisan support and with strong support from military leaders, whether or not a candidate will commit to working to reinstate the law is likely to be a litmus test in 2012 Republican presidential campaigns.
Mormon Mitt Romney, Christian-right Michele Bachmann and anti-Muslim Herman Cain aren’t going to stand up for gay people. And the new Donald Trump in his late splashy embrace of “birtherism” has more than demonstrated he’s willing to pander to the farthest fringe without concern for the facts.
The Atlantic reports this month that libertarian maverick Ron Paul, testing the waters in Iowa in March, was being shuttled around by anti-gay marriage crusader Bob Vander Plaats, just like all the proto-GOP presidential candidates before him, It was on just such a tour with Vander Plaats that Pawlenty first said he would reinstate DADT.
According to the Atlantic, Vander Plaats took Paul on tour to Christian gatherings here and there and Paul dutifully talked about how the American family has been diminished and that all of our rights, like our lives, “come from our Creator.”