House Page Program to End After Nearly 200 Years

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House leaders announced Monday they are shutting down the U.S. House of Representatives' Page program at the end of the summer, ending a Washington institution nearly 200 years old.

Citing advances in technology and the high cost of the program, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., directed the clerk of the House and other House officials to take necessary steps to conclude the program.

The leaders said in a joint statement that they drew their conclusions following an independent review of the program.

"Since the 1820s thousands of young Americans have served as pages in the House of Representatives," the statement reads. "Until recent years, much of the work performed by pages was absolutely essential to the smooth functioning of the House. For example, before email and wide use of the Internet, House pages crisscrossed the congressional complex each day delivering countless messages and documents to members, committees and leadership offices."

An independent review by Strategic Assets Consulting and Fieldstone Consulting found that changes in technology have negated the need for most page services, and the program's high costs are difficult to justify, particularly in light of diminished benefits to the House.

"The 2008 study identified total annual costs of the program in excess of $5 million, not including capital costs associated with the Page dormitory and school," the joint statement continued. "The study calculated per-page costs for a two-semester school year of $69,000 to $80,000 per year, depending on the size of each semester's class."

The page program -- a slice of Americana featured in the 1939 film "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" -- has faced scrutiny in recent years, dating back to 1983 when the late Rep. Gerry Studds, D-Mass., admitted to having an affair with a 17-year-old male page. More recently, former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., resigned in 2005 after reports surfaced that he had sent inappropriate sexual messages to congressional pages.

"We have great appreciation for the unique role that pages have played in the history and traditions of the House of Representatives," Boehner and Pelosi said in their statement.

"This decision was not easy, but it is necessary due to the prohibitive cost of the program and advances in technology that have rendered most page-provided services no longer essential to the smooth functioning of the House. Although the traditional mission of the Page Program has diminished, we will work with members of the House to carry on the tradition of engaging young people in the work of the Congress."

Boehner and Pelosi also directed the House historian to prepare an official history of the House Page Program as a tribute to the many staffers who contributed to the program over the years.

A number of pages went on to become lawmakers or take other significant stations in life. One is Fox News' own Andrew Napolitano, who was a page in the mid-1960s.

In addition, former Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., was a page in 1954 when Puerto Rican nationalists shot up the House chamber and wounded a number of members. Kanjorski, who lost last year to Republican Lou Barletta, was shown on the cover of Life magazine as a page, carrying people down the House steps on a stretcher after the Puerto Ricans' gunfire.

Fox News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report.