Nancy Pelosi Proposes Alternative to Axed Page Program

Posted September 20, 2011 at 6:17pm

More than a month after announcing that the House page program would end after nearly 200 years, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi unveiled a new initiative aimed at filling the gaps it left behind.

In a letter distributed today to House Democrats, the California Democrat laid out a plan that would put college-age interns to work in the Democratic Cloakroom for six-week rotations. Set to launch in October, the program would draw from a small pool of current interns at the recommendations of the Members for whom they are already working.

Pelosi said the concept for the initiative grew out of a desire to keep young people involved with the Capitol.

It would also fill a manpower gap created by the pages’ departure. Assisting in the Cloakroom was a core part of the program, which brought in high school juniors from around the country to assist with the chamber’s day-to-day operations.

“I know these placements will offer a valuable learning experience for the interns while providing valuable assistance to our Members consistent with the needs of the Cloakroom’s staff,” Pelosi wrote.

It would also, she wrote, “be a way to let young people see how floor operations are run without the cost and complex responsibilities of the page program.”

Aides for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said they were unaware of the Democratic initiative before today and did not have a similar program to announce.

Pelosi and Boehner announced Aug. 8 that they would shutter the page program to save about $5 million per year, and this month marked the first time that the House convened without them.

Veteran pages on and off Capitol Hill have been pushing to either reinstate the program or to create a similar entity.

Former pages and current Reps. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.) introduced legislation that would direct the House Administration Committee to assemble a nine-member advisory panel to recommend ways to restore the page program with fewer costs and greater efficiency.

Alumni of the page program plan to gather in the halls of Congress on Friday to lobby House lawmakers to support the measure.