Wilson Center Experts
Donald R. Wolfensberger is director of the Congress Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a position he had held since June 1999. He first came to the Wilson Center in February 1997 as a guest scholar where he wrote the book, Congress and the People: Deliberative Democracy on Trial (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000). Prior to that he worked for 28 years as a staff member in the House of Representatives, beginning in 1969 as a legislative assistant to his own Congressman, Rep. John B. Anderson (R-Ill.). He joined the House Rules Committee staff as Anderson's subcommittee counsel in 1979, and subsequently served on the committee as subcommittee counsel to Rep. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) from 1981-88, and Rep. Lynn Martin (R-Ill.), from 1989-90. In 1991 he was named Republican Staff Director of the Rules Committee by Ranking Minority Member Gerald B. Solomon (R-N.Y.), and in 1995 Solomon named him chief-of-staff of the Committee in the 104th Congress. He is an expert on parliamentary rules and procedures and played a key role in developing House reform proposals for the Republican leadership over the years, 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). During his freshman year at North Central College he was sports editor of the college newspaper, The Chronicle, and yearbook, The Spectrum, and as a sophomore was named editor of the newspaper. While in graduate school he worked part-time as 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. He lectures frequently on Congress to student groups, foreign diplomats, and executive branch officials. He and his wife, Monty Tripp, live in Arlington, Virginia, and in 2009 are celebrating their 25th anniversary.
- "Congress and Policymaking in an Age of Terrorism," in Congress Reconsidered, 8th ed., ed. Oppenheimer and Dodd (CQ Press, 2005)
- Democracy and the Internet, co-editor (Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2002)
- Congress and the People: Deliberative Democracy on Trial, (Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000)
- Author of essays on the "Rules Committee" and "Special Rules" in the Encyclopedia of the United States Congress, Simon and Schuster, 1995