House Page Program Ends After Almost 200 Years

Budget cuts ended the historic and occasionally scandal-ridden program.

ByABC News
September 1, 2011, 1:54 PM

— -- Nearly 200 years since its inception, Congressional leadership ended the historic and occasionally scandal-ridden House Page Program Wednesday, because of budget cuts and technological advances that have rendered the pages' duties obsolete. So, the 72 high school Juniors who annually embark on Washington with their navy blazers and 3.0 or higher GPAs to live, study and discover the workings of the United States Congress are now a thing of the past.

While it seems that Republicans and Democrats in Congress can agree on little of anything nowadays, this decision was announced in a joint statement by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in early August. It hinged largely on an independent review of the program, conducted by Strategic Assets Consulting and Fieldstone Consulting, Inc., which estimated the total annual cost of the program at over $5 million and the annual cost of educating each of the 72 pages at around $80,000 (a figure greater than tuition at preparatory school and the majority of colleges.

"We have a great appreciation for the unique role that Pages have played in the history and traditions of the House of Representatives," the joint statement reads. "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."

It was money that eventually did in the program, which had survived high-profile scandals, like a sex scandal involving two Congressmen in 1983 and the Rep. Mark Foley texting scandal in 2006.

Read more about page scandals.

The news has sparked strong opposition among scores of former House pages, many of whom now hold prominent positions in government. Four-term congressman Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla., for example, penned a rebuttal letter on August 22, urging Boehner and Pelosi to reconsider their decision.

"We firmly believe that the U.S. House of Representatives Page Program remains an asset to Congress," the letter reads. "Former pages have gone on to become today's leaders, both in government and the private sector. It would be a shame to permanently take this opportunity away from our youth."

The 27 other Democrats and one Republican lawmaker - freshman Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania - who signed Rep. Boren's letter conceded that the page program would likely have to be revamped to remain useful. However, the 29 House members insisted that these changes would be simple and feasible enough to merit the continuation of the historic program.

"While we understand the need to cut our expenses in Washington, eliminating the page program will harm the institution of Congress as a whole," Rep. Boren wrote. "There are ways we can reduce the cost of the program without ending it completely."

Specifically, the House members proposed either reducing or eliminating the salary that each page receives to ease the program's financial burden. They also suggested that the pages' job description be altered to adapt to technological advances and the current needs of the Congress; that tours and special office projects might be a better use of the students' skills.