As the one-year anniversary of the House page program’s cancellation approaches, Congress’ leading advocate for reinstating the initiative is renewing his push to find allies.
Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.), a former House page, is circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter to garner more co-sponsors for a resolution he introduced last fall, shortly after Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the program’s termination in August.
The leaders cited technological advances and rising costs as the reasons for ending the centuries-old initiative. Boren’s resolution would task a nine-member panel with conceptualizing a new page program that accounts for “cost-reduction and modernization.”
While very outspoken in the immediate aftermath of the program’s cancellation, Boren has been relatively quiet on the subject for the past nine months. But he is retiring at the end of this session, giving him limited time to work on his pet cause.
Boren also suggested he was capitalizing on renewed interest in the issue: Fellow lawmakers were recently reminded of the program when Roll Call ran a story about a new documentary that will tell the story of the page program’s history through testimonials with former participants.
“Literally, Members were pulling me aside and saying, ‘I read there’s going to be a documentary,’ and they were … like, ‘What happened to the Page Program?’” Boren said. “The announcement [to cancel the program] was made in August recess when no one was around, and then we introduced this legislation and then people kind of forgot about it again. It’s been nice that it’s been brought to the attention of members again.”
Boren’s letter has been well-received so far, he said, and a handful of Members have signed on during the past week. In the beginning, only Democrats had voiced support, but Republican Reps. John Duncan (Tenn.) and Don Young (Alaska) are now also on board. There are 31 co-sponsors.
But Boren acknowledges that convincing leadership to even consider the measure in committee or on the House floor will be a tough sell.
“I think it’s going to be difficult,” he said. “This really is not a decision that’s going to be made by the rank and file. It’s going to be made by the leadership of both parties. … We’re hopeful that they will revisit this as we get more co-sponsors.”
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