The ink is not even dry on House leaders’ decision to terminate the chamber’s page program and former pages are already up in arms and trying to find a way to reverse the decision.
Congressional leaders announced Monday that they would discontinue the almost 200-year-old program because it costs too much and because pages’ duties of carrying messages to Members has been made obsolete by technology.
Tim Caton, who relayed messages for ex-Rep. Paul McHale (D-Pa.) in 1994, said he has been trying to reach out to fellow former pages to brainstorm ways to restore the $5 million program. With hundreds of now-successful alumni — many with political ties — he thinks it should be an easy sell.
“Private funding is the way to go for this. How could [Speaker John] Boehner [R-Ohio] say no to that?” Caton, who now works in the private sector, said in an interview. “Trying to raise that kind of money is not that difficult — in fact, not at all — when you’ve got a base of people who can do it.”
Another former page, Jerry Papazian, who now works for a management consulting firm and serves as president of the Capitol Page Alumni Association, said he wants to try to convince Members to reverse the decision.
“We’re really troubled by this and not sure where to go. We really think it’s a decision that could be rethought, and we would like it to be,” he said. “We’re looking to see what we can do to help change this decision if we can. We think it’s short sighted.”
With access to records and contact information of former pages — more than 9,600 since 1932, he said — Papazian certainly has the access.
Add to that the groundswell of anger that has sprung up on the Internet, and he might just have the ingredients necessary for a protest movement.
Former pages streamed onto social media to voice their displeasure with the decision announced Monday afternoon in a joint statement by Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Georgetown University junior Carlos DeLaTorre, a 2008 alumnus of the page program and the creator of the House Page Network Facebook site, said he and other former pages have been calling Congressional offices since the decision to close the program became public.
He said he wanted leaders to release the report they commissioned from independent consultants that substantiated their decision but was told that the report is confidential.
DeLaTorre said he has a Wednesday meeting with staff from the office of another former page, Rep. John Dingell. He said he will ask the Michigan Democrat to send around a “Dear Colleague” letter in support of the program.
“Hopefully the Dean of the House, a noted former page and someone who has been outspoken about the page program and its role in the House, will come out and do the right thing, as I know he will,” DeLaTorre said. “It’s important that the page program is protected for future generations.”
Other Facebook profiles linked to the page program became sounding boards for contempt for the decision and calls to contact Congressional offices.
Meanwhile, almost 150 people had signed an online petition “demanding that the Page Program continue,” leaving messages lamenting the program’s end.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.