Today, U.S. Representative Dan Boren and 28 Members of Congress sent the below letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, calling on them to reconsider their recent decision to eliminate the House of Representatives Page Program. The group of signatories includes former House Page John Dingell (D-MI), and represents a bi-partisan effort.
On August 8, 2011, Speaker Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announced that they were terminating the House Page Program. They cited the high cost of the program and the reduced need for pages to deliver messages in the digital age as reasons to bring an end to the historical program.
"As a former page, I was incredibly saddened to hear about the termination of the program," said Boren. "I am disappointed that Members were not brought to the table to discuss this important decision. My colleague and I are requesting that Speaker Boehner and Democratic Leader Pelosi look into ways to reduce the cost of the program and expand the role of pages as an alternative to this abrupt decision. This is just the beginning of our effort and I will look at every avenue to save this vital institution."
Below is the text of the letter:
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.
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