Palazzolo departs from the literature arguing that Speakers are either creatures of contextual influences or individual masters of congressional destiny. Instead, he shows that while conditions will largely determine what role is most appropriate at a given point, individual characteristics will influence the manner in which that role is conducted. . . . The argument in The Speaker and the Budget is sophisticated and often subtle. The book should be of interest to budget scholars and students of Congress generally.
One of the most important changes in Congress in decades were the extensive congressional reforms of the 1970s, which moved the congressional budget process into the focus of congressional policy making and shifted decision making away from committees. This overwhelming attention to the federal budget allowed party leaders to emerge as central decision makers. Palazzolo traces the changing nature of the Speaker of the House's role in the congressional budget process from the passage of the Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, through the 100th Congress in 1988. As the deficit grew and budget politics became more partisan in the 1980s, the Speaker became more involved in policy-related functions, such as setting budget priorities and negotiating budget agreements with Senate leaders and the president. Consequently, the Speaker's role as leader of the institution was subordinated to his role as a party leader.
Studies of individual aspects of the speakership are very much needed as a foundation for broader interpretation. Daniel J. Palazzolo has sought to explain one aspect, the Speaker's role in the congressional budget process. His work is solid, and will repay the investment of the reader's time.
The Palazzolo book illustrates why Congress cannot get serious, substantively, politically, or institutionally, about macro-policymaking. . . . The result is often administrative surrogacy in policymaking. It is arguable whether the judiciary can intervene to remedy Congress's shortcomings in enacting intelligible policies, let alone whether Congress can repair itself. . . . Instructive.