Behind The Page Program

Congressman Mark Foley over FBI Seal
Mark Foley, a congressman from Florida, abruptly quit Congress on Sept. 29, 2006, after reports surfaced that he'd sent sexually charged electronic messages to boys working as congressional pages. The disclosure sent House Republicans into damage control mode amid charges by Democrats that some House leaders may have known for months about Foley's inappropriate overtures toward the young pages.

What Is The Congressional Page Program?

Sen., Daniel Webster appointed the first Senate page in 1829, while the first House pages began their service in 1842. But it wasn't until 1971 that the first woman was appointed.

A place in the Congressional Page program is a highly sought-after position for high school students. Pages are sponsored by their local representative or senator. Part of the goal of the page program is to provide students with a foundation for a future in service to the United States, as it has with pages of past generations. In fact, several members of Congress began as a Congressional Page.

What Do Pages Do?

Pages serve principally as "gofers," or messengers. They carry documents between the House and Senate members' offices, committees, and the Library of Congress. They also prepare the House and Senate chambers for each day's business by distributing the Congressional Record and other documents related to the day's agenda, assist in the cloakrooms and chambers, and, when Congress is in session, sit near the dais where they may be summoned by members for assistance.

How Many Congressional Pages Are There?

There are 72 House pages, 48 of whom were selected by Republicans and 24 by Democrats. There are 30 Senate pages, 18 of whom were selected by the Republicans and 12 by the Democrats. All students must be sponsored by a member of Congress to become a Page.

How Are Pages Selected?

There are specific qualifications for selection that include:
  • The individual must possess a cumulative 3.0 or 85% GPA in order to be considered for the program;
  • They must take core academic courses such as English, science, foreign language, humanities and mathematics in its computations of the nominee's GPA;
  • Courses such as physical education, band and yearbook are not considered.
  • Have There Been Other Problems With The Page Program?

    As The New York Times reports, the page program was nearly discontinued two decades ago after accusations of sexual misconduct and drug use. According to the newspaper, Reps. Daniel Crane, R-Ill., and Gerry Studds, D-Mass., were formally censured by the House in a sex scandal involving pages in 1983.

    Rep. Crane admitted to sexual relations with a 17-year-old female page, while Rep. Studds admitted to sexual relations with a 17-year-old male page. Crane apologized for his actions and was voted out of office in 1984. Studds said the relationship was consensual and won re-election the following year. He served in Congress until his retirement in 1996.

    To learn more about the page program:

    • You can read the Senate's guide to the page program here.

    • Click here for a interactive of other political scandals.

    • Foley was chairman of the House caucus on missing and exploited children. You can read his press release from when the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, which he helped write, passed in July.