Former House pages try to save program from elimination

A view of the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.
A view of the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

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Leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives announced this week they are ending the nearly 200-year-old House page program. Now, some former pages have started a campaign to keep the program running.

The House program, which began in the 1820s, allows high school students to serve as messengers and perform other errands for members of the House of Representatives.

In an announcement this week, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) said they could no longer justify the program's $5 million expense because improvements in technology have left the pages with little to do.

U.S. Capitol Page Alumni Association President Jerry Papazian, who served as a page in the early 1970s, acknowledged that pages probably aren't as busy as he was three decades ago. His duties at that time included answering phone calls in the House Republican cloak room. House members now have their own cell phones.

But he said a recent trip to D.C. showed there's still a need for the pages. "It had just been announced that the pages were going to be gone for two weeks in between sessions and the staff members were concerned that the person lowest on the totem pole would be then responsible for what the pages would normally do," Papazian said.

He said the program should be modernized and ending it is like "throwing the baby out with the bathwater."

Some former pages have started an online petition to save the program. Papazian's group also plans to talk with House leadership about keeping the program running.

The U.S. Senate, meanwhile, is keeping its page program.