Policy

Bill Dauster Caps Decades of Senate Service

Longtime Democratic aide retired last week

Bill Dauster, seen here to the right of former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, retired from Senate service last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

There aren’t many Senate aides who get multiple floor speeches recognizing their retirement, but then again, there are not many with as much influence on policymaking as Bill Dauster.

With the arrival of Memorial Day recess, Dauster retired after spending the bulk of the past three decades as a top Democratic staffer to senators, committees and leadership.

As deputy chief of staff for policy under former majority and minority leader Harry Reid, Dauster was involved in the crafting of all the major budget deals of the last several years.

“Sen. Reid’s staffers fondly remember Bill Dauster during the final days of the debt ceiling negotiations, running in and out of Sen. Reid’s office as he rushed to go meet with younger staffers on the Hill who were sent to him for advice,” current Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said. “Even on his busiest days, Bill made time for others.”

“Best wishes to @Bill_Dauster, who has been a staple of this institution for decades,” the office of Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch of Utah tweeted in response to Schumer’s speech.

Reid, always fond of baseball analogies, called Dauster his “utility man” in his Senate farewell address last year.

“He can catch, pitch, play any position on the field,” the Nevada Democrat said.

Dauster, who most recently served as director of policy in the office of Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, previously worked for a number of other Democrats, including Reid and former Sens. Max Baucus of Montana and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. He was involved in the crafting of the campaign finance overhaul law that came to bear the names of Feingold and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

He became a fixture on the old Roll Call “Fabulous 50” listing of staffers.

“Bill has been an asset to this institution,” Van Hollen said in a floor speech Thursday.

“I could not have asked for a better, and more knowledgeable, guide as I began my service here. There are few major legislative battles that Bill Dauster has not joined in the past 30 years, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and the Affordable Care Act,” Van Hollen said. “He has written a book on Senate procedure — and I mean literally — and he has been as much a scholar of the Senate as a participant in its daily life.”

Senators might be dusting off that book in the coming weeks. Dauster authored the 1993 volume “Budget Process Law Annotated,” which includes an explanation of restrictions imposed by the Byrd Rule on reconciliation bills.

He was the Democratic chief counsel for the Senate Budget Committee at the time the volume was produced, among his many other roles in the Senate since 1986.

Dauster is also a prolific editor of Wikipedia entries, focusing on the Torah in addition to his professional expertise on the federal budget process.

He could frequently be seen leaving the Capitol and heading to Union Station to catch the Metro back to his home in the Maryland suburbs. Dauster is married to Ellen Weintraub, the longtime member of the Federal Election Commission. They have three children.

“He was known to give the same response to any co-worker who asked him to come to a social event. He would repeat: I love you, but I love my family more, and I need to be home with them,” Schumer said. “He was so dedicated to his family, we heard. He would regale us with many stories about them.”

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