Donald R. Wolfensberger is a congressional scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and a resident scholar with the Bipartisan Policy Center. He served as a staff member in the U.S. House of Representatives for 28-years, beginning as legislative director for his home district Congressman, John B. Anderson (R-Ill.), from 1969 to 1978. In 1979 Anderson named him minority counsel on the House Rules Committee’s Subcommittee on Rules of the House. In 1981 Congressman Trent Lott tapped him as minority counsel for the Rules Subcommittee on Legislative Process, and in 1989-90, served in that same capacity for Congresswoman Lynn Martin (R-Ill.). In 1991, he was appointed by Rules Committee ranking Republican Gerald B.H. Solomon (N.Y.) as minority staff director of the full committee, and in 1995 Chairman Solomon appointed him as chief-of-staff of the committee, a position in which he served until Feb. 1997.
Upon his retirement from the House he was appointed public policy scholar at the Wilson Center, during which time he wrote the book, Congress and the People: Deliberative Democracy on Trial (Johns Hopkins and Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2000). In June 1999 he was appointed director of the newly formed Congress Project at the Wilson Center, organizing seminars involving current and former Members of Congress, congressional scholars, and congressional reporters, to discuss important policy issues before Congress and how the politics and processes affect outcomes.
Wolfensberger is an expert on parliamentary rules and procedures. He was involved in numerous reform efforts in such areas as ethics, budgeting, committee procedures, and inter-branch relations. He played a key role in developing House reform proposals for the Republican leadership over the years as part of the opening day Republican rules package in each new Congress, culminating in their adoption as House rules when the GOP won majority control in 1995.
He earned a B.A. in English from North Central College (1964) and successfully completed course work towards an M.A. in political science at the University of Iowa (1966). He was editor of his college newspaper, The North Central Chronicle. While in graduate school he worked as a part-time newscaster and reporter for KXIC radio in Iowa City. After graduate school he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania, East Africa (1967-68), teaching English in a secondary school. He currently writes a twice-monthly column, “Procedural Politics,” for the popular Capitol Hill Newspaper, Roll Call, and frequently lectures on how Congress operates to student groups, diplomats and executive branch employees.
Read Wolfensberger’s “Procedural Politics” columns in Roll Call here.