Should teenagers have an opportunity to work for their member of Congress?
Since 1817, the House of Representatives’ page program featured teenagers or high school students serving in nonpartisan roles assisting members of Congress and their offices. Think of it as being similar to an internship, but with students slightly younger than the college students who traditionally fill those roles.
In August 2011, the House Republican and Democratic leaders jointly announced the end of the page program, meaning it wasn’t a partisan decision.
What the bill does
The Promoting American Government Education Act (PAGE) Act would formally resurrect the long-running congressional page program.
It was introduced in the House on May 1 as bill number H.R. 2434, by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL1).
What supporters say
Supporters argue the bill inspires civic engagement among America’s youth, and is a valuable service that the people’s legislature used to provide to the people.
“Pages have been a part of Congress since it first sat in 1789. As a Member of the House of Representatives who has served for nearly three decades, I have seen the immense benefit the page program brings both to the House, and to those who serve,” Rep. Rush said in a press release. “The page program fosters bipartisan civic engagement and creates a new generation of leaders.”
“With the 116th Congress having the most diverse House in history, reestablishing the Page Program allows a new and underrepresented generation of America’s youth to witness first-hand as their Representatives perform their important work for the people,” Rep. Ru\sh continued. “It is important that we no longer deny such a formative opportunity to students across our country.”
What opponents say
Opponents counter that the program was expensive and made largely obsolete by technological advancements.
“Pages, once stretched to the limit delivering large numbers of documents and other packages between the U.S. Capitol and House office buildings, are today rarely called upon for such services, since most documents are now transmitted electronically,” then-Speaker of the House John Boehner and then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a joint 2011 statementannouncing the end of the program.
“Dozens of Pages, once needed on the House floor to deliver a steady stream of phone messages to lawmakers, are no longer required for that purpose as most Members are contacted directly via electronic devices,” Reps. Boehner and Pelosi continued. “The annual cost to operate the program exceeds $5 million.”
Odds of passage
The bill has not yet attracted any House cosponsors. It awaits a possible vote in the House Administration Committee.
What about the odds of getting other House members on board?
Rep. Rush has served in Congress since 1993, with the page program existing for the bulk of his tenure, so he was very familiar with it. However, more than half of current House members were first elected after 2011 when the page program ended, and thus have no personal connection to it. (Unless they themselves had been participants as teenagers.)