Tales from the Trail

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 They’ve been replaced by the BlackBerry, the Internet and other electronic delivery and instant messaging services.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.

Former Bush lawyer hired to defend gay marriage ban

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has hired Paul Clement, the former solicitor general during George W. Bush’s presidency, to pick up the ball and defend the law that defined marriage as between a man and woman.

GAYMARRIAGE-CALIFORNIA/The Obama administration decided in February to drop its defense of the 15-year-old law, which was hailed by gay rights advocates but widely panned by many senior Republicans infuriated that the Justice Department would no longer defend the law in court and called it a political move.

In one case in Boston, a federal judge struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act banning gay marriages as unconstitutional.

Who to blame for a U.S. government shutdown?

USA-POLITICS/REPUBLICANSNever mind that it hasn’t happened yet. Lawmakers want to make sure everyone knows who is responsible if  it does.

If  the  U.S. Congress deadlocks over spending for the rest of this fiscal year and forces a shutdown of government services when the money runs out on March 4, who will be to blame?

Democrats and Republicans may not agree on much, but they do agree on one thing – if the government shuts down it will be the other party’s fault.

One Washington day is not like another for Mr. Hu

USA-CHINA/China’s President Hu Jintao was feted with full fanfare at the White House on Wednesday, with a 21-gun salute, honor guards and a state dinner. Things might not be quite so fancy on Thursday when he goes to Capitol Hill.

There he will see Republican Speaker John Boehner in the House of Representatives, then cross the Capitol to meet Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Neither bothered to attend Wednesday’s state dinner.

Also attending the House and Senate meetings will be several other lawmakers who want a word with Hu about human rights in China, as well as China’s dealings with Iran and Chinese trade practices.