The Speakers of the House, from Carl Albert to Tom Foley, have faced various challenges in the budgetary process since the passage of the Budget Act in 1974. That act required the Congress to fix budget targets in authorizations and outlays in each of thirteen functional categories for each fiscal year and to reconcile annual authorizations and appropriations to those targets. It created separate budget committees in each chamber and altered the legislative process in an attempt to enforce budget discipline. Some challenges have been defined by the individual Speakers themselves; others have emerged from institutional changes in the budget process, large deficits, and the political context within which budget decisions have been made. Speaker Albert's primary challenge was to meet the formal guidelines of the new budget process. Under Speaker Tip O'Neill, the task of facilitating the formal procedures of the Budget Act gave way to managing various forms of conflict over budget priorities, representing the House majority party in negotiations with Senate leaders and the president, and acting as a spokesperson for the Democratic party. Speaker Jim Wright used the budget resolution to define the priorities of the Democratic party. Speaker Foley's major challenge has been to facilitate passage of two major deficit reduction bills, first under a divided government in which opposing parties controlled the Congress and the White House and then under the leadership of President Bill Clinton.

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Copyright © 1994 Congressional Quarterly Press. This chapter first appeared in The Speaker: Leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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