As you may have heard in the news, Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi have decided to eliminate the U.S. House of Representatives Page Program. This comes as a great disappointment to me, many of my colleagues, and the many who have benefited from the program. Senator Daniel Webster appointed the first Senate page in 1829, and the first House pages began their service in 1842. A female House page first served in 1939, although women didn't formally become part of the program until 1973. African-American teens were not allowed to become pages until the mid-1960s. Pages are appointed by a member or senator for one academic semester or a summer session. They are high-school juniors, and they must attend classes each weekday starting at 6:45 a.m. before heading to the Capitol. Pages live in Residence Hall, which is within walking distance of the building.
Amanda Trosen, currently a senior at Blue Springs High School, represented Missouri as a Congressional page. Amanda told me firsthand of her invaluable experience of serving as a page. "House leadership announced that they are cutting the congressional page program," she said, in a recent article. "Along with the 120 pages I served with over the past year, I feel devastated that no one will ever again get to witness history in the making from the perspective of a page."
Many of the students who come here to serve have never ventured outside of their hometowns. The opportunity to work for Congress, live steps from the Capitol building, and gain first-hand experience with our country's legislative process is unlike any other. It would be a shame if we take this opportunity away from our youth.
Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi cite budgetary constraints and changes in technology as reasons for eliminating the program. While I understand the need to cut back, ending the page program entirely goes too far. There are ways to reduce the cost of the program, as well as opportunities to expand the role and duties of House pages, that should be considered before we cancel it completely. The letter my colleagues and I sent 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.