A former dormitory for House pages is being eyed as a potential day care facility. While that may relieve space considerations for the popular day care program, at least one lawmaker is concerned it could also be the last blow to the defunct page program.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan has asked for a review of whether the space could be used as a daycare facility, according to Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers. The First Street building has sat idle since the page program was ended in 2011. The program, which had brought hundreds of teenagers to work for Congress, was officially the victim of budget cuts and technology changes but the announcement came on the heels of a series of embarrassing stories involving the pages and elected officials. The Senate program remains in place.
"The thing is, if you do too much construction that changes it from it being able to go back to being a dormitory, then we’ll never be able to go back to the page program," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz D-Fla., said Tuesday at a hearing of the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, where Ayers made the revelation about Ryan's request.
"It's just a travesty to me that we don’t have the opportunity for young people to learn about public service and to be immersed in the workings of the greatest democracy that the world has ever seen," Wasserman Schultz said.
Ryan's office confirmed it had requested studying converting the facility, and everything is at a very preliminary stage. The House Day Care, which provides child care at below market prices to staff members, has a long waiting list. When they announced the end of the page program, former Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., argued in a letter that the program, which cost more than $5 million, or about $69,000 to $80,000 per page, was outdated. The decision sparked outcry among the program's proponents, including several House members who were pages themselves, including former Reps. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., and Tom Davis, R-Va.
But the program's history of scandal and mischief — involving sexual impropriety between pages and such members as Reps. Mark Foley, R-Fla., and Gerry Studds, D-Mass., and of substance abuse among pages, helped seal its fate.
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