Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Republicans Call for the `Grover Norquist Solution' to the Page Program

Grover Norquist, the radical rightwing strategist and close adviser to George W. Bush said, "My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

Once again, Republicans' solution to a government program that doesn't put money directly into their pockets is to destroy it:

U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood on Monday called for the termination of the House page program at the end of this semester until it can be reviewed in the wake of the scandal over a House member's inappropriate Internet chats with teenagers who were in the program.
It's amazing that the United States ever got off the ground at all with the Republican party perpetually plotting its demise whenever they didn't get their own way, or were caught with their hands in the till.

The history of the Page Program is long, going back to 1829. It's difficult enough trying to instill civic-mindedness and foster patriotism in young Americans, given how Republicans have worked for the last thirty years to destroy our public education system. But when it comes to our nation's children, Republicans prove again that they just can't be bothered:
The scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley has brought new attention to a program that brings dozens of high-school students to Capitol Hill each year.

Path to Pagedom: To qualify, pages must be high school juniors, at least 16 years old, have good grades and be sponsored by their local representative or senator.

Job Description: Pages are essentially glorified gofers. They fetch members for votes and hand-deliver messages, bills and amendments to and fro. For their service, which is limited to one semester, they earn the equivalent of an annual salary of between $18,800 (for House pages) and $20,500 (for Senate pages). They live in dormitories in Capitol Hill and attend mandatory, early-morning classes before heading off to the Hill.

Page Fashion: Pages are required to pay for their own uniforms -- navy jackets, dark gray slacks or skirts, long-sleeved white shirts and black shoes.

Origins: The program can be traced to silver-tongued statesman Daniel Webster, who appointed the first Senate page in 1829. The first House pages followed in 1842.

Where Are They Now: Several pages have later returned to Capitol Hill as lawmakers -- including such current senior members of Congress as Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CN), Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) and Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA).

Page Problems: Despite its long history, the program was nearly eliminated two decades ago. In 1983, a congressional investigation turned up evidence that two House members, Reps. Daniel B. Crane and Gerry Studds, and a senior House employee had engaged in sexual liaisons with pages.

Crane, a Republican from Illinois, admitted to a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female page. He was censured and voted out of office in 1984. Studds, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said the sexual affair he had with a 17-year-old male page was consensual, and accused the House ethics committee of violating his privacy. Studds was also censured, but won re-election the following year and served in Congress until his retirement in 1996.

In the wake of the investigation, Congress overhauled the page program and adopted new protections. A dormitory for pages was created near the Capitol, and the minimum age of participation was raised from 14 to 16.

What Now: The future of the program is once again threatened. In the wake of the Foley revelations, several lawmakers have called for a suspension or end to the 150-year-old congressional tradition.
The solution is to get lawmakers into office who have a sincere desire to serve the public instead of their own `bottom line.'

They could try filling their time with work (you know what they say about "idle hands"?) - this 109th Congress is the most `do-nothing' Congress in the history of the nation. 3-day work-weeks (Congress was in session only 94 days this year), Republican-controlled, this Congress left Washington last week after having failed to meet, for the 10th year in a row, the deadline for completing the budget for the upcoming fiscal year:
"I regret that we have once again so markedly demonstrated in the United States Senate that keeping our job far outweighs the desire to do our jobs," Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee said in a speech from the Senate floor Friday afternoon.

"There will (have been) no accountability for most of the actions taken by Congress on the domestic portion of the budget," agreed Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., highest ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

Byrd said GOP leaders have been unwilling to bring the domestic spending bills up for debate before the Nov. 7 elections because of the deep cuts they include to popular programs. Byrd calculated that Republicans plan to cut domestic programs by $14 billion after adjusting for inflation.

"The summer-long hiatus from our legislative duties make me wonder why we bothered to keep the lights on in this chamber at all," Byrd said.

What do members of Congress say when they pass each other in the halls on Wednesdays?
"Have a nice weekend!"

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