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Posted at 02:29 PM ET, 08/22/2011

29 House members urge leaders not to end page program


(Charles Dharapak - AP)
A group of 29 House members is urging House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) not to end the House Page Program, which the top two leaders announced is set to conclude at the end of the month.

Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.), a four-term congressman and former page who earlier this month wrote an op-ed in The Hill calling the move by Boehner and Pelosi “drastic and unfounded,” penned a letter Monday along with 28 other lawmakers urging the House leaders to reconsider their decision to end the program.

“We firmly believe that the U.S. House of Representatives Page Program remains an asset to Congress,” the lawmakers wrote. “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. Therefore, we urge you to reconsider your decision to end this valuable program.”

In addition to Boren, the other 27 House Democrats signing the letter are Reps. Henry Cuellar (Texas), Alcee Hastings (Fla.), Madeleine Z. Bordallo (Guam), Jerry Costello (Ill.), Charlie Gonzalez (Texas), Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), Steve Cohen (Tenn.), Sam Farr (Calif.), Betty McCollum (Minn.), Gary Ackerman (N.Y.), Donna Christensen (Virgin Islands), Nick Rahall (W.Va.), Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.), John Conyers (Mich.), James Moran (Va.), Charlie Rangel (N.Y.), Rubén Hinojosa (Texas), Albio Sires (N.J.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Barbara Lee (Calif.), John Lewis (Ga.), John Dingell (Mich.), Hank Johnson (Ga.), Pete Visclosky (Ind.), G. K. Butterfield (N.C.), Jerry McNerney (Calif.) and Jim Himes (Conn.).

One Republican lawmaker, freshman Rep. Lou Barletta (Pa.), also signed the letter.

Pelosi and Boehner had earlier this month said that their decision to bring the $5 million program to an end was “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.” The move was met with a strong reaction from many former House pages, among them several current members of Congress, who argued that the program provides a rare opportunity for young people to observe first-hand how Washington works.

Boren and the other House members wrote in their letter Monday that they were “disappointed” that leaders did not consult with them before making the decision to end the nearly 200-year-old program. They also suggested ways that the program might be revamped in order to adjust to advances in technology.

“While it is true that pages are no longer called upon to physically deliver messages in the digital age, the value of the program cannot be measured in the number of messages or flags delivered,” the members wrote. “The role of pages may have changed and will continue to change in the future, but this is not a sufficient reason to end their historical presence in our halls. Rather, we should find new ways to use their skills.”

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi:

We write to you today to express our deep concern over the decision to eliminate the U.S. House of Representatives Page Program. Pages have been an integral part of the legislative process dating back to the First Constitutional Convention, and it is a mistake to end the program rather than making changes to bring down the costs and expand the role of pages.

While we understand the need to cut our expenses in Washington, eliminating the page program will harm the institution of Congress as a whole. There are ways we can reduce the cost of the program without ending it completely. For example, the salary each page receives could be reduced or eliminated. Many students come to Washington for the learning experience, and would gladly do so without compensation. We would be pleased to discuss this as well as other measures aimed at reducing the costs associated with the page program.

You cited changes in technology as a reason for your decision to end the program. While it is true that pages are no longer called upon to physically deliver messages in the digital age, the value of the program cannot be measured in the number of messages or flags delivered. The role of pages may have changed and will continue to change in the future, but this is not a sufficient reason to end their historical presence in our halls. Rather, we should find new ways to use their skills. Pages could be called on to assist offices with special projects, tours, and various other tasks. It would be a mistake to end the program rather than change the role of these students to fit the needs of Congress today.

We are disappointed that we were not brought to the table to give our input on this decision. This is a significant change to the traditions of the House of Representatives, and we would have welcomed the opportunity to discuss ways to improve and reduce the costs of the page program.

We firmly believe that the U.S. House of Representatives Page Program remains an asset to Congress. 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. Therefore, we urge you to reconsider your decision to end this valuable program.

Sincerely,

Dan Boren, Henry Cuellar, Alcee L. Hastings, Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Jerry Costello, Charles A. Gonzalez, Lynn C. Woolsey, Lou Barletta, Steve Cohen, Sam Farr, Betty McCollum, Gary L. Ackerman, Donna Christensen, Nick J. Rahall, II, Emanuel Cleaver, II, John Conyers, Jr., James P. Moran, Charles B. Rangel, Rubén Hinojosa, Albio Sires, Sheila Jackson Lee, Barbara Lee, John Lewis, John Dingell, Hank Johnson, Pete Visclosky, G. K. Butterfield, Jerry McNerney, Jim Himes

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