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Wonkology: Chairman's Mark

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November 6, 2019

A first draft of legislation introduced by the chair of a committee or subcommittee to be considered at a markup.

Skid Row

Any member of Congress can introduce legislation. Upon introduction, legislation is referred to relevant committees of jurisdiction. Committees can choose to amend or markup legislation before forwarding to the full chamber for consideration.

The overwhelming number of introduced bills rarely make it out of committee, let alone are signed into law. In fact, of the nearly 9,000 pieces of legislation offered so far in the 116th Congress, slightly less than 1,000 have seen any committee action and only 66 have become law. As a result, committee and subcommittee chairs have significant power in determining which legislation moves forward.

Feed Me (Get It!)

When a committee considers legislation, it can take up an already-introduced bill or a new draft of legislation brought forward by the chair. This draft legislation is known as the "chairman's mark," reflects the legislative prerogative of the chair, and is typically drafted in collaboration with majority members of the committee. In that instance, the chairman's mark would be brought forward to the committee for markup.

Somewhere That's Green

The power of the chair to control the direction of their committee is an important tool in advancing the majority party's legislative agenda. This was recently seen in the markup of the College Affordability Act, which is the House Democrats' take on reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965. House EdLabor Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) released the chairman's mark of the bill on October 15. Immediately prior to the markup last week, Higher Education Subcommittee Chair Susan Davis (D-CA) put forward changes to the bill with an amendment in the nature of a substitute. That legislative vehicle was then amended over three days, and the amended bill cleared the committee with a 28-22 party-line vote. The College Affordability Act next moves to the floor for further consideration, which could happen by the end of this year.