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Congress and the People

, 320 pages
March 2000



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Congress and the People

Deliberative Democracy on Trial

Will some form of direct democracy supplant representative, deliberative government in the twenty-first century United States? That question is at the heart of Donald R. Wolfensberger's history of Congress and congressional reform, which runs back to the Constitution's creation of a popularly elected House of Representatives and forward to the surreal ending of the 105th Congress, featuring barrels of pork, resignation of the speaker, and impeachment of the president.

The author's expertise comes from twenty-eight years as a staff member in the House, culminating in service as chief of staff of the powerful House Rules Committee. He was a top parliamentary expert and a principal Republican procedural strategist. Sensitive to the power of process, Wolfensberger is an authoritative guide to reform efforts of earlier eras. And as a participant in reforms since the 1960s, he offers a unique perspective on forging the "1970s sunshine coalition," televising House proceedings, debating term limits, and coping with democracy in an electronic age.

Donald R. Wolfensberger served as a staff member in Congress from 1969 to 1997, working for such House members as John B. Anderson, Trent Lott, and Lynn Martin. He is currently the director of the Congress Project at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

"An interesting volume on Congress and its democratic relationships with the people."

"The author, a long-time Republican staff member in the U.S. Congress who played a key role in the events leading up to and following the Republican takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994, eschews the traditional memoir in favor of a more ambitious approach. Certainly, Wolfensberger relies on stories from his tenure in the House, but he also plays the role of historian and political scientist."

"This book contains the best and finest understanding of Congressional behavior I know and makes anew—and in the context of current political issues and means of communication—our founders' case for deliberative, representative democracy."

"Anyone who reads this study will recognize immediately that the scholarship that went into it is superior... With the twenty- first century just around the corner, it is especially timely given its assessment of the tension between our republican form of government and 'virtual democracy.'."

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