An Arlington teen is doing a lot of storytelling about what he did on New Year’s Eve. He wasn’t out partying with friends, but instead spent Monday working as a page while the Senate scrambled to pass fiscal cliff legislation.
Jarrod Nagurka said he had a short break as the clock struck midnight, so he watched the New York City ball drop on a television in the Senate Democratic cloakroom.
“Nothing could be cooler than spending New Year’s in the Senate,” said Nagurka. “I was joking around with one of the senators that hopefully I’ll have quite a few more New Year’s Eves, but my days spending New Year’s Eve in the Senate are probably numbered.”
The last time the Senate worked on New Year’s Eve was in 1995, so this week’s occurrence is rather rare. The vote happened around 2:00 a.m. on January 1, after a series of long days. Nagurka said he put in around 80 hours of work in the eight days he served as a page over the past couple of weeks.
Nagurka, who just celebrated his 19th birthday yesterday, is originally from Arlington and is in his freshman year at the University of Virginia. He was one of 30 students chosen from across the country to participate in the page program in the fall of 2010. Knowing that Nagurka is local and would be on break from school, he was asked to return as a page during the recent fiscal cliff session. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) even took a moment on the Senate floor to thank Nagurka and the few other pages who were able to help out.
“We have 18-year-old Jarrod Nagurka, of Arlington. He gave up his winter break to be here,” Reid said. “I want the record to reflect our deep appreciation for [the pages], and I wish them the very best in their future endeavors.”
Back in 2010, Reid gave a lengthy speech thanking Nagurka and a page from Maryland, calling them “legislative heroes.” Reid said they took on the work of 30 legislative pages, and that pages are hard to come by for legislative sessions suddenly occurring around the holidays. Nagurka said due to the serious nature of the fiscal cliff situation, he didn’t expect accolades this time around and was honored that Reid still recognized him.
“When he thanked me on early Tuesday morning, it was really short and that’s understandable because it was right before the vote,” said Nagurka. “Back in 2010, it was longer, but look, he doesn’t have to do any of that. I certainly appreciate that he and others recognize we were there.”
Nagurka acknowledged many Americans’ frustrations with how the fiscal cliff situation played out, but he urged citizens to look at things from a different perspective.
“I think a lot off people have a tendency to say [senators are] not doing their job and they’re putting their work off,” said Nagurka. “I think people need to realize it’s not just one senator running the country. It’s like you have 100 CEOs trying to run one company. You have people who are ideologically on different ends of the spectrum, so I think that’s where the gridlock occurs. There are certainly parts of the bill that are tough to swallow, but it’s the first time in 20 years that they voted in the Senate for tax increases.”
Senate page duties typically include taking care of odd jobs that allow senators to remain on the floor. For instance, Nagurka said he has been asked to do everything from providing a glass of water to delivering legislative paperwork.
“As small of a role as a page plays, it’s kind of cool to contribute to making the Senate run and observe the workings,” he said. “What’s kind of cool for me is I almost felt like a fly on the wall. You really hear the conversations and the inner workings of the Senate, which is really not an experience too many people are fortunate enough to have.”
Although he’s currently majoring in economics, Nagurka isn’t ruling out a career in politics at some time in the future.
“I think politics is definitely something I’ll keep open,” he said. “Political process is so rare, and sometimes people take it for granted in this country.”
Nagurka also is not ruling out another opportunity to work as a Senate page.
“If the Senate was brought back at some unusual time again, I’d expect to go back and help out.”