Baking the Legislative Cake: How Congress Passes Legislation Now

Recorded On: 07/22/2021

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Some may view legislative history as icing on an already baked cake, but how exactly does Congress bake legislation today? Many researchers believe that Congress blends the rules with unorthodox procedures to pass legislation. While this may be true of bills where legislators must bread carefully—those that are contentious and/or involve spending—in-depth research shows that Congress employs a more traditional, piece-of-cake approach to most of its legislative output. This process still resembles the “Schoolhouse Rock” vision of Congressional procedure, but with significant differences that can batter legislative researchers. This presentation uses strained baking analogies and bad puns to provide an overview of how legislation was passed from the 110th to 116th Congresses. It will use baking recipes to demonstrate how conventional Congressional procedures really are (or are not) and how researchers need to look for the ingredients that make up legislative history.

Recorded at the 2021 AALL Virtual Conference. Please note the opinions shared during the programs represent the views of the speakers and not of AALL.


Academic law librarians, government law librarians (particularly, those who deal with legislative information), private law librarians for firms that deal with legislative issues.


  1. The audience will be able to explain the processes through which Congress passes legislation today and apply this information in their teaching as well as their personal and professional research.
  2. The audience will be able to use information on the laws passed since 2008 to create classroom exercises and identify areas for research.


  • Jim Martin, Law Library of Congress
  • Margaret M. Wood, Law Library of Congress


  • John Cannan, Villanova University, Charles Widger School of Law

AALL BODY OF KNOWLEDGE DOMAINS: Research + Analysis, Teaching + Training

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Baking the Legislative Cake: How Congress Passes Legislation Now
Recorded 07/22/2021
Recorded 07/22/2021