White House Touts 'Historic' 28 Laws Signed By Trump, But What Are They?
Even though President Trump calls the 100-days measure "ridiculous," the White House is still touting what one press release called the president's "historic accomplishments" — including 28 laws he has signed since taking office.
But when it comes to legislation, political scientists say it is better to measure significance than to simply add up the number of bills. It is better, they argue, to ask whether a law changes the status quo or introduces a new policy idea.
By that measure, there is not as much to show legislation-wise for Trump's first 100 days.
Of the 28 new laws signed by Trump, two name Veterans Affairs clinics in honor of people, one adds National Vietnam War Veterans Day to the list of days people and businesses are encouraged to fly American flags, five are related to personnel matters (including the waiver allowing James Mattis to become secretary of defense), and one extends an Obama-era policy allowing veterans in some circumstances to get health care outside of the VA system.
"Congress passes laws all the time, naming post offices after people, doing minor things that they can get through," said Leon Panetta, who served as defense secretary in the Obama administration and as chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. Panetta doesn't see any major legislation in this administration's first 100 days.
"Presidents throughout history are acknowledged as a success when they get legislation passed through the Congress — major legislation that affects the lives of people. And that ultimately will be the test for this president," Panetta said.
During the campaign, Trump signed a "Contract With the American Voter," in which he promised to work with Congress to introduce 10 bills "and fight for their passage within the first 100 days of my Administration."
Of those 10, only one — the American Health Care Act — has made it into legislative form, and it has not yet gotten a vote. The Trump administration did announce broad outlines of a tax system overhaul this week, but it isn't expected to be written into legislation until later this year.
In a briefing with reporters on Tuesday, Trump's legislative affairs director Marc Short was asked to name the new president's most significant legislative accomplishment — to name one major new law — but he took issue with the question.
"I would say that confirming a Supreme Court justice of the United States who will probably be there for 30 years is a big legislative achievement," said Short. "I would say the regulatory impact we've had on the economy is a big legislative achievement. And we look forward in the coming days to hopefully continue to make progress on the appropriations process and on health care."
When he talks about "regulatory impact," Short is referring to the 13 laws passed under the Congressional Review Act. Before Trump, the 1996 law had been used only once before, by George W Bush. But with GOP in control of both the House and the Senate, the Trump White House had a rare chance to significantly roll back rules written by the previous administration.
The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to reverse rules within 60 legislative days of their submission, requiring only a simple majority in the Senate. In the current Congress, that means Democrats are not able to block the rollbacks.
House Speaker Paul Ryan touted the 13 laws as "measures to take excessive regulations off the book so we can grow this economy."
They included a rule meant to protect streams from pollution, which opponents argued hurt the coal industry; and a rule requiring financial advisers to put consumers' best interests ahead of their own, which critics said would hurt retirees.
Rounding out the 28 laws, three modify existing programs and two encourage agencies to try something new.
But in the realm of legislation, 100 days is a short period of time. Significant bills take a long time to complete, often measured in years rather than days.
President George W. Bush's first tax cut and No Child Left Behind initiative didn't pass in the first 100 days. The Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank financial industry regulations didn't become law in President Barack Obama's first 100 days either, though he and Congress did pass a nearly $800 billion stimulus bill. Other than that, Obama signed several program re-authorizations, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (that had been in the works in the previous Congress) and a bill naming a post office.
Time frame aside, Trump learned with the health care bill he hoped to pass and sign weeks ago that having the president's party control both the House and the Senate doesn't guarantee the numbers needed for priorities to breeze through.
"President Obama faced a lot of the same problems," Panetta noted.
Panetta said Trump will be judged on whether he can put together a working coalition, which will most likely require reaching across the aisle. Thus far Trump has tried to do everything with one-party rule — not even attempting to win Democratic votes (not that they would have been forthcoming).
If this year ends and Trump hasn't found a way to work with Congress and pass significant legislation like the health care bill or his tax plan, he won't be judged kindly. Presidents succeed or fail based on their ability to work with Congress.
The 28 Bills That Trump Has Signed Into Law
Extending Obama-Era Policy
Modifying Existing Programs
Repealing Obama-Era Rules And Regulations
Naming Something/Siting A Memorial/Encouraging Flag Flying
Encouraging An Agency To Try Something New
Legislative links and text via GovTrack.
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