Meanwhile, luxuries that could be cut with little risk of unintended consequences were left alone.
Rules prohibit taxpayer money from being spent on bottled water at most federal buildings, but not at the Capitol. House offices have long spent nearly $1 million a year on bottled water. Tap water in the Capitol is checked regularly and is safe to drink, according to the Architect of the Capitol.
“I read with great interest of your decision to cut the budget for House offices,” George S. Hawkins, general manager of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, wrote to Mr. Boehner in January. “If fiscal responsibility is your aim, I should point out that our water costs about a penny a gallon. Bottled water costs hundreds of times more.”
The water authority offered free refillable bottles to replace jugs delivered by trucks and the testing of pipes to alleviate any concerns about water quality in the historic buildings. Mr. Boehner’s office never responded.
“It would have been an easy step to take,” said Alan Heymann, a spokesman for the D.C. water authority.
The page program, which paid high school students to ferry documents for members and gave some lawmakers their first taste of politics, will not return with the House on Tuesday for the first time.
This year also appeared to mark a death knell for another tradition dating to the earliest days of the republic. The biggest savings came from taxpayer-funded mailings to constituents, known as franking. The amount spent on printing and sending mailings declined dramatically, by $10 million in the second quarter compared with a year prior.
Rep. Vern Buchanan, Florida Republican, slimmed his office budget 40 percent by cutting back on mailings. The hundreds of thousands of dollars he spent on mailings in a few months last year was more than the entire payroll for his Washington and district staffs.
Mr. Buchanan “understands the need to rein in spending and restore fiscal sanity to Washington,” his office said in a statement.
Rep. Keith Ellison, Minnesota Democrat, spent $130,000 on mailers in the second quarter of 2010, and nearly nothing last quarter.
Franked mail is cherished by members because it gives a boost to incumbents by increasing name recognition without requiring campaign funds. Nearly all congressional mail is sent by House members, who have to defend their seats every two years, rather than senators, who face election once every six years.
But in the era of the tea party, when minutiae is scrutinized for signs of excess, franked mail, which must include a notice that it is “Prepared, Published, and Mailed at Taxpayer Expense,” risked becoming a liability more than an asset.
When Rep. Frank C. Guinta, New Hampshire Republican, held a town-hall meeting recently to seek input on the largest issues of the day, the forum was interrupted by an angry man who instead wanted to talk about junk mail.
“Let’s go back to the costs on the glossy!” the man yelled, referring to a mailing that used more expensive shiny paper, The Washington Post reported.