- The Washington Times - Monday, August 8, 2011

Citing high costs and limited duties, House Speaker John A. Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Monday that they are ending the page program that has seen both successes and its share of controversy in its near 200-year history.

The two lawmakers said at a cost of up to $80,000 a year for each page slot, it wasn’t worth it, particularly because lawmakers are now in touch with their offices and each other through Blackberrys and other electronics, so pages’ messenger duties have been curtailed.

The program will end by Aug. 31.

Mr. Boehner and Mrs. Pelosi wrote that while they are “mindful of the special place their unique experience holds in the memories of the young Americans privileged to serve as pages over the years, our decision to close the program reflects two current realities: Changes in technology have obviated the need for most Page services and the program’s high costs are difficult to justify, especially in light of diminished benefits to the House.”

They promised to try to find a way for high school students to get involved with the work of Congress.

Some former members of Congress participated in the program as youngsters. The program brings students to Capitol Hill, where they stay in a dorm and continue studies while helping operations on the House floor.

In recent years, the program has been in the spotlight for negative reasons. In 1983, the House censured Republican Dan Crane of Illinois and Democrat Gerry Studds of Massachusetts for having sexual relationships with program participants.

In 2006, Rep. Mark Foley, Florida Republican, resigned after he sent suggestive instant messages to former male pages.

Two studies that started in 2008 found that while the pages once were “stretched to the limit delivering large numbers of urgently needed documents and other packages,” today they are “rarely called upon for such deliveries, as most documents are now transmitted electronically.”

The Senate page program is expected to continue.

This article was based in part on wire service reports.