Washington (CNN) - House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Monday they are ending the House page program, which employs about 70 high school age students each semester and summer to study in Washington and serve as messengers around the Capitol complex.
The program, instituted in the 1820s, has come under fire several times for scandals involving inappropriate contact with members, as well as underage drinking and drug use. In 2006 reports surfaced that then Florida Republican Rep. Mark Foley had sent several inappropriate messages of a sexual nature to former House pages.
Foley resigned shortly after the email messages were revealed, but an ethics committee investigation ensued and a separate review of the page program, itself. Leaders added new oversight responsibilities for the "page board," made up of members of Congress and others who oversee the program.
Boehner and Pelosi notified House members Monday that they began a comprehensive review of the program by independent consultants in 2008 and decided to end it after the current summer session because the page program is too expensive and no longer needed.
In a joint statement, the two top House leaders explained, "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."
The two leaders noted, as examples, that pages are no longer needed to deliver packages all over Capitol Hill because so many documents are sent electronically; and they're no longer relied on to relay phone messages to lawmakers on the House floor because members tend to use their Blackberries.
The leaders' review found that the program cost over $5 million a year to administer, not including the costs of housing the students at the nearby dormitory on Capitol Hill, plus the cost of the school the high school juniors are required to attend at the Library of Congress.
At a time when Congress is struggling to reduce spending, including cutting its own costs, the "per page" cost of $69,000 to $80,000 per school year was a steep number to sustain. In addition to taking classes, pages get paid a monthly salary for their work fielding messages and running errands for members during House sessions.
Both leaders pledged to include other ways for young people to engage in Congress' work but did not mention any specific plans.
Several current members of Congress served as pages, including the current Dean of the House, Michigan Democrat John Dingell.
According to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid's office, the program for Senate pages will continue.
This is really sad news. Of course it is low-hanging fruit and I would guess not many people even know of the program (though I think Bill Gates was one), so makes sense to cut it. Boehner and Pelosi had to agree because both Republicans and Democrats get to appoint pages. But it is sad to see great traditions like the House page program get cut because our government can't seem to manage itself properly. As someone who was a House page, I will always remember the experience fondly. I grew up a lower middle-class kid from the midwest with little opportunity, so the chance I got one summer to live and work on Capitol Hill was life-changing. I will never forget it, and now it is very sad to think that even though I have worked hard to open up many more opportunities for my children than I ever had, this will likely never be one they can have.
"....it is another sign that John Boehner walks the talk"?
Somebody's tongue has got to be rawfrom all of the boot licking they are doing.
Guess Boehner didn't like this batch of pages...he like his boys much younger. Just like Foley used them as his own personal dating service.
To Sebastian Kent: You are thick as heavy fog. You can't read or you can't comprehend. The study was initiated in 2008 when Pelosi was the Speaker. If you can't understand this, have a second grader explain it to you.
photo looks like a pretty diverse crop of kids.
I love that we are ending a program due to the fact that our corrupt politicians are sending inappropriate text messages to little kids. Did anyone get that? It's REALLY time for the American people to rise up and clean house. This is NOT MY America and all of these thugs in DC don't represent MY country. I'm a 33 year old woman and I once worked for a would be governor of WA state. My main take away message was that "You're too pretty and may not be in a room alone with Sen. R. because of his wife." Great experience. Let's clean this filth up.
Pedophilia aside, high costs you say? Why don't we get a bit more creative and have host families who volunteer to house these kids- then there is no dorm cost. To pay the school experience, there are a MILLION ways to remedy that... how about all the would be teachers that need practicum experience? Can't think of a better way for them to get that and it's free. Just shows again that we have a bunch of linear thinking people running our country. It's really pathetic. Maybe if our politicians started listening to their constituents (you know- like they should be) they'd find that the American public is not this sad collection of "sheeple" as they thing and that the very solutions may be found there.
Sign me disgusted, fed up and ready to act.
They look like Children of the Corn, the future of our country already getting molded to rule under our noses wow.
We see who doesn't care one iota about saving any money, "Hairy" Reid. He's keeping the Senate pages. That's par for the course for the Democrats. Spend like there's no end in sight.
What are those lecherous old Congressmen going to do now for fun?
I am saddened by this horrible affirmation that Congress has, indeed, gone bananas. They have agreed to end a storied, tradition of bringing young people from the far corners of the country to Washington to learn, and care, about the political process and our Nation. Sure, end it you fools. You'll save about a million dollars a year. In the grand scheme of TRILLIONS, this is peanuts. But the harm will be immediate: kids from Montana or Connecticut or Maine or Alabama, regardless of status or privilege, will now have one less reason or avenue to get involved in our political process. Instead of trusting our unimagineabley wise forefathers, the new breed will again ditch tradition in the interest of camera-ready shekel saving. How sad is it how our elected leaders, leaders sent by us to represent the American ideals, choose to pose for cameras, looking for validation and stroking, instead of keeping sacred the small-cost program that keeps youth plugged-in. These youngsters, more often than not, have transitioned into positions of authority within our government, or with the top industries of our nation. How dare evil Pelosi and spineless Boehner end this esteemed and legendary program in the weak show of "saving" peanuts, in the grand scheme of things. Great idea. Shut off the one remaining avenue to iiinclude the youth of America in the workings of the legislative process in a relatively minute savings of peanuts. What a foul show. Both Plastic Pelosi and her awful and weak Boner should be ouster. Instead of trusting the Forefathers, they shortsightedly axe a minor-cost program with historical significance to save pennies. Instead of enforcing the laws that their predecessors have voted for (i.e. uniform enforcement of immigration LAWS), they choose to save a dollar and a half on a program that gets our young people interested and involved. SHAME ON YOU BOEHNER AND PELOSI. What great savings have you extracted from this ill-advised cut? Absolutley nothing. May you both live to realize yet another of your horrible edicts. SHAME!
Don't, by any means, cut out your personal drivers or any of those very-necessary fundraising trips back home (or elsewhere). Don't cut out the excesses of luxury vehicles and security details (though, if I were in your positions, making stupid, illogical decisions, I would) in the interest of keeping young people involved in the process. And Mrs. Pelosi, please, PLEASE, don't cut that security man charged with carrying your shoes. No! YOU DISGUST US with your ABUSES! We are doomed to Hell as a republic. Shame on all involved.
It's a sign that Boehner, yet again, will throw ANYONE under the bus in order to keep from having to do hard work, like getting more money into government to help pay bills he's equally responsible for.
Wow, 70K+ for a gopher job, and not even a HS diploma. And these are the same &^icks that that vote on their own salaries, and are supposed to represent us. I vote we all take a page from their book with regard to the cancellation of the Page program, and cancel ALL of their jobs too. Replace them. Pay the replacements based on merit. Limit their terms to a max of 4 years total. We, the people, vote on their salaries each term.
As much as it is a great learning experience for the kids, it is time for it to go because of questionable practices towards them by poorly behaving members of Congress and the advance of technology.