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Counting the number of laws he’s signed, President Donald Trump has been more productive in his first 100 days than any president since Harry Truman, according to press secretary Sean Spicer.
"Despite the historic obstruction by Senate Democrats, he's worked with Congress to pass more legislation in his first 100 days than any president since Truman, and these bills deliver on some of his most significant promises to the American people," Spicer said at the White House daily press briefing April 25.
This is a new assessment of Trump’s output so far from the White House; Trump previously, wrongly, said no administration had accomplished as much as he did, period.
Trump has signed 28 bills so far. Spicer’s correct that this is more than every president going back about 70 years.
However, this isn’t a perfect measure — primarily because not all bills are created equal. None of the bills Trump has signed into law are particularly significant.
Truman signed 55 bills in his first 100 days after his 1948 election. (Truman first became president in 1945, when Franklin D. Roosevelt died in office. So we’re starting with the first 100 days of Truman’s first full term.)
No president since Truman has signed as many bills in his first 100 days, according to data from GovTrack and research by political scientists John Frendreis, Raymond Tatalovich and Jon Schaff.
The next highest after Trump, who has signed 28 bills, was John F. Kennedy, who signed 26. The lowest was George W. Bush, who signed seven.
No president comes close to Roosevelt, who began the tradition of marking the first 100 days. He signed 76.
Note on the chart: For presidents Jimmy Carter through Trump, we did our own count using GovTrack. For earlier presidents, we used data confirmed by Frendreis, a political science professor at Loyola University Chicago. For Lyndon Johnson and Truman, who both came into office to replace a president midterm, we used the first 100 days after their re-election. We left out Gerald Ford because he did not serve a full term.
Of the post-Truman presidents, Trump is "fairly typical" in terms of the number of bills signed so far, Frendreis said.
Spicer says that Trump has shepherded these bills through Congress. However, the 28 bills aren’t very significant and don’t appear to have required vote whipping from the White House.
For example, three bills appoint individuals to the Smithsonian Institution board, two name buildings, and one designates a location for a National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial.
The most notable bills Trump has signed are a set of 13 that reverse Obama-era regulations on a range of issues including on internet privacy and gun control. While that was a goal for Republican lawmakers, it’s important to note these bills made it to Trump’s desk through a process made possible by the Congressional Review Act, which became law in 1996. The act gives Congress a narrow window to reverse regulations, so these 13 bills had to get through Congress within Trump’s first 100 days.
Notably missing from the list of 28 bills that have reached his desk: A bill repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, along with several other laws Trump said he would try to usher through Congress within his first 100 days.
Compare this to President Barack Obama, who signed 14 laws, but those laws included the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the $800 billion stimulus package.
Or Roosevelt, who within 100 days signed 15 major bills including the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which established farm subsidies, and the National Industrial Recovery Act, which started public-works efforts to reverse the Great Depression. He signed bills that legalized the manufacture and sale of beer and wine and established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
This doesn’t necessarily reflect badly on Trump. Generally speaking, it’s rare for a president to sign major legislation in his first 100 days, Frendreis said. "Outsider" presidents like Trump, in particular, need time to learn how to navigate the lawmaking process in Washington, and major legislation doesn’t move through Congress quickly.
The first 100 days is "not necessarily an accurate reflection of how effective a president is going to be in leading Congress," he said.
Spicer said Trump has "worked with Congress to pass more legislation in his first 100 days than any president since Truman."
In the first 100 days of his first full term, Truman signed 55 bills. The president with the highest count since then is Trump with 28.
None of the bills Trump has signed so far are major pieces of legislation, so it doesn’t indicate that Trump has been particularly skilled at getting his agenda through Congress so far.
We rate Spicer’s claim Mostly True.
GovTrack, Advanced Search for Legislation, conducted April 25, 2017
PolitiFact, "How do Donald Trump's first 100 days rate historically?" April 24, 2017
PolitiFact, "Trump's 100 days: Where he fell short," April 26, 2017
FiveThirtyEight, "A President’s First 100 Days Really Do Matter," Jan. 17, 2017
Phone interview, Loyola University Chicago political science professor John Frendreis, April 26, 2017
Email interview, Marquette University political science professor Julia Azari, April 25, 2017
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