Since 1827, they have made politics and scandals and cut a fine figure in the House of Representatives: They are youthful parliamentary servants called “pages.” Now they are being sacrificed in the name of saving.
Some experienced history being made, although all experienced rakish stories; some were seduced, and some went into politics. On Aug. 31, this venerable tradition in the House of Representatives fell victim to the dictate of savings by a decision by both parties. Axed will be a proud $5 million per year; thereby the stabilization of the debt-ridden U.S. budget is nearly worked out.
Into Apprenticeship after School
Most recently, there were 70 high school graduates who went to Washington and into politics before their college studies. They lived together at the Capitol [and] attended the “House Page School” together. Thirty-five percent of their salary, $1,800 each month, was withheld for room and board.
No Career without “Page Service”
Now, there are supposed to be representatives who no longer know who will pour them water at the speaker’s podium, polish their shoes or deliver their secret handwritten messages to their colleagues. And there are supposed to be young, aspiring people who believe their career in politics is ruined because they will no longer get to be pages in the hallowed halls of Congress.
A third group of former pages does not mourn the program. “We only learned anyway,” said one, “who had the sharpest bald head-concealing hairstyle, not how pensions in the U.S. will be guaranteed.”
Other former pages saw it differently. They besieged the leadership of the House of Representatives with ideas to take over the support and financing of pages themselves. Such a fine tradition should not fall through due to savings constraints.
Scandalous Parliamentary Work
However, both John Boehner for the Republicans and Nancy Pelosi for the Democrats agreed with one another, as they seldom do: The pages must go. They may have been thinking of the scandals. In 1983, it came out that Democrat Gerry Studds (Massachusetts) and Republican Dan Crane (Illinois) had had sexual affairs with pages; Crane lost his seat in the next election; Studds served 16 more years.
Page Service Should Stay
Mark Foley, Democrat from Florida, had to give up his seat in 2006 when it became public that he had sent lewd text messages and emails to pages. For the defenders of the page service, there remains the U.S. Senate. There appears to be no talk of dismantling the servants of the chamber there. And their masters imply that they do not want to forego their services for a long time.