Members of Congress are for the first time formally pushing back against the decision to eliminate the House page program and say they will continue their outcry against what they believe is a misguided action.
Rep. Dan Boren, who was a Senate page for the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), led 29 House Democrats in sending a letter to leadership expressing “deep concern” that cutting the program “will harm the institution of Congress as a whole.”
“As a former page, I was incredibly saddened to hear about the termination of the program,” the Oklahoma Democrat, who has announced he will retire after this term, said in a statement. “I am disappointed that Members were not brought to the table to discuss this important decision. ... This is just the beginning of our effort and I will look at every avenue to save this vital institution.”
The decision was based on the findings of a report by independent contractors, which has not been publicly released, that found that the program costs $5 million yearly and that pages’ duties have become obsolete due to technology.
But Boren and the other Members — including one-time page Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the dean of the House — said in the letter to Boehner and Pelosi that they should have consulted with Members to explore ways to salvage the program.
“We are disappointed that we were not brought to the table to give our input on this decision,” the Members wrote. “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.”
The Members suggested decreasing the pages’ salaries or doing away with pay altogether or assigning them different tasks than just delivering messages and flags, such as giving tours to constituents.
“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,” they wrote.
Meanwhile, networks of former pages have been organizing outside the halls of Congress in an attempt to stoke a grass-roots response to the program’s demise.
A group called Save the Page Program plans to meet at D.C.’s West End Library at 7:30 p.m. Monday to discuss ways to save the program, according to the group’s Facebook page.
Another group called the House Page Network sent its own letter to Boehner and Pelosi, which included more than 400 signatures, according to its Facebook page.
“The House Page Program has given hope and opportunity to those who have taken part, and we foresee that tradition will continue for years to come,” the letter read. “It is The House Page Network’s sincere wish that the decision to terminate the House Page Program be reconsidered.”
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.