U.S. House ends historic page program
They have been a ubiquitous presence in the U.S. Capitol since the early 1800′s. Some have even gone on to become members of Congress. But as of September 1, there will be no more young, earnest-looking young men and women in blue uniforms delivering messages and documents to members of the House of Representives.
House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announced on Monday that the House page program will end on August 31. They’ve been replaced by the BlackBerry, the Internet and other electronic delivery and instant messaging services.
“Dozens of pages were once needed on the House floor to deliver a steady stream of phone messages to members – but today are severely underutilized, as members are typically contacted directly via BlackBerries and similar devices,” they wrote.
The program employs about 70 high school students at any given time and the costs, up to $80,000 annually per page, are hard to justify, the leaders wrote.
The pages for the most part blend into the background of the Capitol. But some infamous sex scandals involving lawmakers and the young pages brought about reforms in 1983 that established an oversight board for the program and set up a new dormatory for them.
Despite the changes, the program has still been marred by scandal. In 2006, Republican Representative Mark Foley was forced to resign after reports that he had sent sexually explicit Internet messages to a former page.
The Senate page program will continue. The first Senate page was appointed by Daniel Webster in 1829.
Photo Credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing ( U.S. President George W. Bush greets Capitol Hill pages in January 2007)