When President Trump signed the $1.5 trillion tax cut bill on Friday at the White House, he made a bold claim — that his "legislative approvals" were off the charts. "No. 1 in the history of our country," he said, citing 88 as the number of bills he had signed into law.
The actual number of laws Trump signed this year is 96. His claim of historic achievement isn't accurate, either.
But that didn't stop him from repeating the erroneous claim Wednesday during a visit with firefighters in West Palm Beach, Fla.
"We have signed more legislation than anybody," Trump said.
He hasn't. In sheer numbers of bills signed into law during a president's first year in office (Jan. 20-Dec. 31), Trump is behind his six most recent predecessors.
According to tallies by GovTrack, Trump also trails Nixon, Kennedy and Eisenhower.
In making his claim, Trump also boasted that he had exceeded even former President Harry S. Truman's record for the number of bills signed.
"Harry Truman had more legislative approvals than any other president and — a record long held," Trump said. "And we beat him on legislative approvals, for which I get no credit."
@tamarakeithNPR We don't have an exact figure handy, but around 240-250. According to Statutes at Large, Congress passed 292 bills in that session. Subtracting from January-April, minus few vetoes, gets to that figure.
Three White House spokespersons did not respond to a request from NPR to explain which record Trump was referring to, given that he trailed so many of his predecessors in the number of bills signed into law.
In any case, tallying laws signed is not necessarily a good way to measure accomplishment.
Political scientists say a far better — though more subjective — measure is significance, because not all bills are created equal. For instance, "S 810: A bill to facilitate construction of a bridge on certain property in Christian County, Missouri, and for other purposes" isn't in the same realm of significance as "HR 3364: Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act."
NPR analyzed all 96 laws signed by Trump this year, categorizing them. More than three dozen modify or extend existing law; 16 repeal rules and regulations using a process known as the Congressional Review Act; a dozen commemorate or honor people and organizations such as by renaming federal buildings; and seven provide temporary government funding or one-time disaster relief funds.
"This tax bill is a big deal," said John Frendreis, professor of political science at Loyola University Chicago. "But I don't think anybody would regard anything else that has come down the line as a significant legislative achievement."
The 96 Laws Trump Has Signed
Takes action needed every year/basic maintenance governing (2)
HJRes 123Making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2018, and for other purposes
HR 1370 Continuing Appropriations Act, Department of Defense Missile Defeat and Defense Enhancements Appropriations Act, CHIP and Public Health Funding Extension Act, 2018
Repeals rules and regulations (16)
These resolutions were passed through a previously obscure process known as the Congressional Review Act, which requires only a simple majority for passage in the Senate. Because these measures can't be filibustered in the Senate, they've been an easy way for Republicans, even with only a narrow Senate majority, to reverse Obama-era regulations that hadn't yet taken effect.
HJRes 67 Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of Labor relating to savings arrangements established by qualified State political subdivisions for non-governmental employees
HJRes 43 Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the final rule submitted by Secretary of Health and Human Services relating to compliance with title X requirements by project recipients in selecting subrecipients
HJRes 69 Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the final rule of the Department of the Interior relating to "Non-Subsistence Take of Wildlife, and Public Participation and Closure Procedures, on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska"
HJRes 83 Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of Labor relating to "Clarification of Employer's Continuing Obligation to Make and Maintain an Accurate Record of Each Recordable Injury and Illness"
SJRes 34 A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission relating to "Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services"
HJRes 4 Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of Labor relating to drug testing of unemployment compensation applicants
HJRes 57 Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Department of Education relating to accountability and State plans under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
HJRes 58 Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Department of Education relating to teacher preparation issues
HJRes 37 Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of Defense, the General Services Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration relating to the Federal Acquisition Regulation
HJRes 44 Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of the Interior relating to Bureau of Land Management regulations that establish the procedures used to prepare, revise, or amend land use plans pursuant to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976
HJRes 4 Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Social Security Administration relating to Implementation of the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007
HJRes 38 Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of the Interior known as the Stream Protection Rule
HJRes 41 Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of a rule submitted by the Securities and Exchange Commission relating to "Disclosure of Payments by Resource Extraction Issuers"
S 496 A bill to repeal the rule issued by the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration entitled "Metropolitan Planning Organization Coordination and Planning Area Reform"
HJRes 66 Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of Labor relating to savings arrangements established by States for non-governmental employees
HJRes 111 Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection relating to "Arbitration Agreements"
Encourages an agency or the president to try something new (13)
HR 321 Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act
HR 1117 To require the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to submit a report regarding certain plans regarding assistance to applicants and grantees during the response to an emergency or disaster
HJRes 76 Granting the consent and approval of Congress for the Commonwealth of Virginia, the State of Maryland, and the District of Columbia to enter into a compact relating to the establishment of the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission
HR 2288 Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017
S 1866 Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria Education Relief Act of 2017
S 652 Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act of 2017
S 544 A bill to amend the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 to modify the termination date for the Veterans Choice Program, and for other purposes
HR 4374 To amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to authorize additional emergency uses for medical products to reduce deaths and severity of injuries caused by agents of war, and for other purposes
HR 228 Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Consolidation Act of 2017
S 371 Department of State Authorities Act, Fiscal Year 2017, Improvements Act
HR 1679 FEMA Accountability, Modernization and Transparency Act of 2017
Names something/sites a memorial/encourages flag-flying/makes a statement (12)
SJRes 1 A joint resolution approving the location of a memorial to commemorate and honor the members of the Armed Forces who served on active duty in support of Operation Desert Storm or Operation Desert Shield
HR 1362 To name the Department of Veterans Affairs community-based outpatient clinic in Pago Pago, American Samoa, the Faleomavaega Eni Fa'aua'a Hunkin VA Clinic
HR 609 To designate the Department of Veterans Affairs health care center in Center Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania, as the "Abie Abraham VA Clinic"
S 305 Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017
HR 375 To designate the Federal building and United States courthouse located at 719 Church Street in Nashville, Tennessee, as the "Fred D. Thompson Federal Building and United States Courthouse"
HR 2210 To designate the community living center of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Butler Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania, as the "Sergeant Joseph George Kusick VA Community Living Center"
SJRes 49 A joint resolution condemning the violence and domestic terrorist attack that took place during events between August 11 and August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, recognizing the first responders who lost their lives while monitoring the events, offering deepest condolences to the families and friends of those individuals who were killed and deepest sympathies and support to those individuals who were injured by the violence, expressing support for the Charlottesville community, rejecting White nationalists, White supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups, and urging the President and the President's Cabinet to use all available resources to address the threats posed by those groups
SJRes 30A joint resolution providing for the reappointment of Steve Case as a citizen regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution
SJRes 36 A joint resolution providing for the appointment of Roger W. Ferguson as a citizen regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution
SJRes 35A joint resolution providing for the appointment of Michael Govan as a citizen regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution
HR 1228 To provide for the appointment of members of the Board of Directors of the Office of Compliance to replace members whose terms expire during 2017, and for other purposes
S 84 A bill to provide for an exception to a limitation against appointment of persons as Secretary of Defense within seven years of relief from active duty as a regular commissioned officer of the Armed Forces
HR 3110Financial Stability Oversight Council Insurance Member Continuity Act
Legislative links and text via GovTrack
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Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.