Longtime Republican House staff member Wolfensberger surveys the way that Congress has reacted to various challenges to its representative deliberative structure. He looks at the questions of democratic process that arose in debates over the adoption of the Constitution, the abolition of slavery, the adoption of national referendums, and the limitation of terms. Devoting most of the material to the past few decades of House activity, Wolfensberger finds it unlikely that the structure of Congress will significantly change. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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.