The House yesterday overhauled the board supervising its teenage pages, responding to a scandal that left youngsters vulnerable to a lawmaker’s sexual come-ons and helped Democrats win control of Congress.
The vote was 416-0 to equalize the political membership of the House Page Board, whose Republican chairman never told two board colleagues that he thought — for a year — that Rep. Mark Foley was a “ticking time bomb.”
The board, expanded from five to eight members, will now include a former page and the parent of a current or former page, to add new pairs of eyes to spot any future examples of misconduct.
It also adds a fourth lawmaker to the board, giving two members to each party, in addition to the clerk of the House and the sergeant-at-arms who are permanent members.
Mr. Foley, Florida Republican, resigned Sept. 29, and polls showed the scandal was a factor in Republicans losing control of the House in November.
The former lawmaker became acquainted with the teenagers while they worked in Congress, and kept in touch after they left — sending some overly friendly e-mails and sexually explicit instant messages.
Pages are high school students who run errands for lawmakers while learning about Congress, attending a congressionally run high school and living in a supervised dormitory.
In remarks before the vote, lawmakers expressed anger that the past board chairman, John Shimkus, Illinois Republican, failed to convene the board when he learned in autumn of 2005 that Mr. Foley had sent overly friendly e-mails to a former Louisiana page.
Frozen out were Reps. Dale E. Kildee, Michigan Democrat, the new board chairman, and Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia Republican, who will remain on the board. Both said they learned of Mr. Foley’s conduct when he resigned and his conduct became public. They were co-sponsors of the newly approved changes.
The House ethics committee, in a December report on the scandal, said that after Mr. Foley resigned, Mr. Shimkus told Mrs. Capito “that he believed he had done the right thing in 2005 based on the information he had, but added words to the effect of Dale’s [Rep. Kildee] a nice guy, but he’s a Democrat, and I was afraid it would be blown out of proportion.”
The report also said that the House clerk, Jeff Trandahl, warned Mr. Shimkus that Mr. Foley was a “ticking time bomb” who had been confronted repeatedly about his conduct with pages.
Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, California Democrat, chairman of the Committee on House Administration, alluded to Mr. Shimkus’ actions in remarks to the House prior to the vote, although his name was not mentioned.
“The board must not only be free of partisanship, but must function so all of the members have access” to accusations of misconduct, she said.