WASHINGTON - The House yesterday overhauled the board supervising its teenage pages, responding to a scandal that showed youngsters vulnerable to a lawmaker's sexual come-ons and helped Democrats win control of Congress.
The vote was 416-0 to equalize the political membership of the House Page Board, whose Republican chairman never told two board colleagues that he believed - for a year - that then-Rep. Mark Foley (R., Fla.) was a "ticking time bomb."
The expanded board also will include a former page and the parent of a current or former page, to add new eyes to spot any future examples of misconduct.
Pages are high school students who run errands for lawmakers while learning about Congress, attending a congressionally run high school, and living in a supervised dormitory.
Members of the page board, part of a congressional network serving as surrogate parents, also would meet regularly under the legislation.
Foley resigned Sept. 29, and polls showed that the scandal was a factor in Republicans' losing control of the House on Nov. 7.
The former lawmaker became acquainted with the teenagers while they worked in Congress, and kept in touch after they left - sending some of them overly friendly e-mail and sexually explicit instant messages.
In remarks before the vote, lawmakers voiced anger that the past board chairman, John Shimkus (R., Ill.), failed to convene the board when he learned in the fall of 2005 of Foley's e-mail to a former Louisiana page.
That information had not been shared with board colleagues Dale E. Kildee (D., Mich.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R., W. Va.).
Kildee will be the new board chairman; Capito will remain on the board.
Both said they learned of Foley's conduct when he resigned and his conduct became public. They were cosponsors of the newly approved changes.
The House ethics committee, in a December report, said that after Foley resigned, Shimkus told Capito "that he believed he had done the right thing in 2005 based on the information he had, but added words to the effect of 'Dale's a nice guy, but he's a Democrat, and I was afraid it would be blown out of proportion.' "
The report also said that the House clerk, Jeff Trandahl, warned Shimkus that Foley was a "ticking time bomb" who had been confronted repeatedly about his conduct with pages.
Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers of Michigan, senior Republican on the House Committee on Administration, took a slap at Shimkus, saying the failure to convene the page board to deal with Foley had "made the problem even worse."
Shimkus made no remarks on the floor but voted for the changes. His office said he did not want to comment.
The House measure expands the board membership from five to eight: four House members, equally divided by party; the clerk of the House and the sergeant-at-arms, who are permanent members; the former page; and the parent.
Kildee said the new board would ensure "the well-being of the young people who serve this House as pages."
Bills that the House passed as part
of the Democrats' 100-hour agenda would:
Passed Jan. 9, by a vote of 299-128.
$5.15 to $7.25 an hour over 26 months.
Passed Jan. 10, 315-116.
Passed Jan. 11, 253-174.
prices for Medicare beneficiaries.
Passed Jan. 12, 255-170.
Passed Wednesday, 356-71.
lost to the government because of an
Interior Department error in leases issued
in the late 1990s.
Passed Thursday, 264-163.
President Bush has threatened to veto
the stem-cell and Medicare prescription
bills. And all the bills face change in the Senate, where rules and a much slimmer Democratic majority assure a bigger role
Democrats also won approval of internal House rule changes dealing with ethics, lobbying and budgeting. Those passed Jan. 4-5.