The House Page Program, a beloved Washington institution and the beginning of many a congressional career, has become the latest — and, to many on Capitol Hill, thus far the most shocking — casualty of the country’s fiscal woes.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Monday in a joint statement that they had directed House officials to “take the steps necessary to conclude” the nearly two-century-old program after independent consultants concluded that it was not cost-effective.
“We have great appreciation for the unique role that Pages have played in the history and traditions of the House of Representatives,” Pelosi and Boehner said in a joint 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.”
Pages are students in their junior year of high school who are hired as temporary support staff for House members. In addition to running errands, delivering correspondence for lawmakers and answering phones in the cloakrooms off the House floor, pages also take classes at the House Page School and live together in a residence hall on Capitol Hill. They receive a monthly salary of $1,804.83, from which a 35 percent room-and-board fee is deducted, according to the House Page Program.
The per capita cost of operating the program runs between $69,000 and $80,000 a year, at a total annual cost of more than $5 million, according to the joint statement from the House leaders.
Technology is part of the reason for the program’s demise: Boehner and Pelosi said in their statement that an independent review by two consulting firms had found that pages are now “rarely” called on to shuttle large crates of documents or other packages between the Capitol and the three House office buildings, since most messages are now delivered electronically. Fewer pages are now needed to answer the phones, since most members receive messages via electronic device.
Boehner and Pelosi said they have 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.”
“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,” they said in their joint statement.
A 2006 Roll Call story profiled 11 lawmakers who had gotten their start in Washington as pages, including Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.).
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