Rep. Dingell asks Boehner and Pelosi to justify cancellation of page program

The House’s longest-serving current member, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), is calling on Republican and Democratic leadership to justify their recent decision to terminate the page program.

In a letter sent Friday to Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerA new kind of hero? Last week's emotional TV may be a sign GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger Freedom Caucus presses McCarthy to force vote to oust Pelosi MORE (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Dingell expressed concerns about the recent cancellation of the program — in effect for nearly 200 years — due to prohibitive costs and advances in technology.

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“While I appreciate the fiscal constraints currently facing our nation and the House of Representatives, I believe the decision to end the House Page Program was short-sighted,” Dingell wrote. 

“I find it difficult to believe that ending the Page Program will not result in the hiring of additional staff to answer the phones, take messages, and administer floor duties. The House Page Program is a unique and valuable way to engage young people in public service and had Members of the House been consulted I believe the decision to end the Page Program would not have been rendered.”

BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerA new kind of hero? Last week's emotional TV may be a sign GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger Freedom Caucus presses McCarthy to force vote to oust Pelosi MORE and Pelosis offices have not responded to requests for comment. The House leaders announced their decision to terminate the program in a joint statement Aug. 8, saying the program will come to an end as of Aug. 31. 

The page program employs roughly 70 high school students to serve as messengers and couriers on the House floor and around the Capitol complex, offering them the opportunity to work and attend high school in Congress for a semester, or for several weeks during the summer.

“This decision was not easy, but it is necessary,” Boehner and Pelosi wrote of the cancellation, noting that the cost to operate the program exceeds $5 million annually.

In his letter to the House leaders, Dingell — who has served in the House since 1955 — said he has seen the benefits of the program first hand as a former page.

“Countless numbers of young people have had the enriching experience of viewing firsthand how their government operates while giving them an early opportunity to engage in public service,” he wrote. “The Page Program is a great way to get young people of all backgrounds involved in our democracy and excited about public service, which is certainly valuable to society as a whole.” 

Acknowledging the nations fiscal concerns, Dingell added that the value the program offers to both youth and the House should not be forgotten.

“I believe that stakeholders, including current and former pages, members of the page board, and other interested parties, deserve the opportunity to review the information on which your decision was based on,” he wrote. “Therefore, I respectfully request that your offices release the results of the commissioned review of the Page Program.”

Dingell also requested that answers be provided to such questions as how much money will be saved by terminating the program, what additional costs will be incurred due to its elimination and whether Boehner and Pelosi’s offices considered any reforms to the program to make it more cost-effective.

“Providing this information will go a long way in instilling public confidence that the proper decision has been made in this instance,” Dingell wrote. “I look forward to your response and to working with all interested parties to ensure that Congress remains open and accepting to the contributions of young people.”