House Page Program to Conclude

By Eliza

Aug 8, 2011 6:09pm

ABC News’ Eliza Larson reports:

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced the end of the House page program Tuesday, putting an end to a storied program for young people that had hiccups and led to the resignation of at least one Congressman.

Pelosi and Boehner pointed to advances in technology that have reduced the need for pages and released a statement, calling for House officials to end the program in Congress:

The pages – high school students who spend a semester in Congress, have been a commonplace sight in Congress for more than a hundred years, with their matching navy blazers. They might be carrying packages and other documents to different offices in both the House and Capitol.

“We have great appreciation for the unique role that Pages have played in the history and traditions of the House of Representatives,” said Pelosi and Boehner in the statement. “This decision was not easy, but it is necessary due to the prohibitive cost of the program and advances in technology that have rendered most Page-provided services no longer essential to the smooth functioning of the House. Although the traditional mission of the Page Program has diminished, we will work with Members of the House to carry on the tradition of engaging young people in the work of the Congress.”

The House Page Program, which has been around for 200 years, is run by the office of the Clerk of the House. They used to appoint high school juniors to this position, assuming that they will remain non-partisan in order to provide supplemental administrative support to House operations.

Both Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi have reached out to the Clerk of the House to end the House Page Program. Their argument was partially based on an independent review of the program by Strategic Assets Consulting and Fieldstone Consulting, Inc., noting that pages were once used for delivery purposes but now they are rarely used since most important messages are delivered via email or other electronic device.

Additionally, and perhaps in light of recent debt negotiations the cost of operation exceeds $5 million, making the “per Page” cost per school year between $69,000 and $80,000, which is more than the most expensive boarding schools, colleges, or universities.

Although not a given reason for ending the program, there have been issues with relationships between staff members and pages. Most notably was the text message scandal involving former Florida Republican Rep. Mark Foley, whose messages to teenage former congressional page forced investigations that led to his resignation.

But the Congressional Page role will not be forgotten; Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Pelosi have also directed the House Historian to prepare an official history of the House Page Program as a tribute to the many Pages, Members of Congress and congressional staff who have contributed to the program over the years.

Read more about the history of the House Page Program HERE.

After the announcement that the House Page Program would end, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., says that the Senate has “no plans” to cancel their page program. The duties of a Senate page are relatively the same as a House page but the program itself is about half the size of the House’s.

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