Despite Claims To Contrary, Trump Has Signed No Major Laws 5 Months In

Jun 23, 2017
Originally published on June 23, 2017 11:49 am

Updated 12:30 p.m. ET

President Trump kept one of his campaign promises, signing a bill Friday to make it easier for the secretary of veterans affairs to fire and discipline employees. It came in response to the 2014 VA scandal in which employees covered up long wait times while collecting bonuses.

The bill, which passed earlier this month with strong bipartisan support, also gives the secretary authority to revoke bonuses and protects whistleblowers who report wrongdoing.

"What happened was a national disgrace and yet some of the employees involved in these scandals remained on the payrolls," Trump said just before signing the bill. "Outdated laws kept the government from holding those who failed our veterans accountable. Today we are finally changing those laws."

The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 marks Trump's 40th law signed.

Sounds like a lot.

And in recent days, Trump has boasted about all the legislation he has signed.

"We passed and signed 38 pieces of legislation, which nobody likes to talk about," Trump said June 13 before a lunch with lawmakers. "I think probably seldom has any president and administration done more or had more success so early on, including a record number of resolutions to eliminate job-killing regulations."

And he tweeted the same message on Friday morning.

A White House spokesperson confirmed to NPR that at the time of Trump's tweet, the number was actually 39 — not 38.

Measuring laws passed by counting rather than by significance is pretty meaningless. More on that in a bit. Among modern Oval Office occupants, Presidents Jimmy Carter (52), George H.W. Bush (41) and Bill Clinton (41) had all signed more bills into law than Trump has by this point in their presidencies.

So, what has Trump accomplished with Congress so far? Nothing that political scientists would categorize as major pieces of legislation. We looked at this question as Trump hit his 100 days mark. This story contains more detail on legislation he signed in the early part of his presidency.

As he said, Trump has signed a record number of resolutions reversing Obama-era regulations, 15 in total. These resolutions were passed under the Congressional Review Act and only required a simple majority for passage in the Senate. It was only used once before, by George W. Bush.

That made it much easier to get them through than regular legislation. The Congressional Review Act was passed in 1996 and allows Congress to reverse rules within 60 legislative days of their submission. That period is now over, so you won't see more laws like these any time soon.

Two of the laws he has signed are budget related. One simply extended federal spending for a week while Congress worked out its differences on a longer-term funding bill. The other was possibly the most significant legislation signed by Trump so far. It kept the government funded and set spending levels through the end of September.

But these sorts of spending bills are also the most basic functions of Congress and the president, literally keeping the lights on.

On June 6, Trump signed a law designating the courthouse on Church Street in Nashville, Tenn., as the Fred D. Thompson Federal Building and United States Courthouse. Thompson served in the Senate, representing Tennessee from 1994 to 2003 and briefly ran for president in 2008. But he is best known for playing District Attorney Arthur Branch on the long-running police procedural drama Law and Order on NBC. He died in 2015. There was no formal signing ceremony for that bill.

On May 16, the president signed a law requiring the government to allow federal employees to use Uber, Lyft, bike sharing and other forms of alternative transportation for official travel. The Modernizing Government Travel Act was also introduced last year and passed the House but wasn't taken up by the Senate.

"I will say that never has there been a president — with few exceptions; in the case of [Franklin D. Roosevelt], he had a major depression to handle — who's passed more legislation, who's done more things than what we've done," Trump said at the start of a recent Cabinet meeting, "between the executive orders and the job-killing regulations that have been terminated. Many bills; I guess over 34 bills that Congress signed."


The 40 Laws President Trump Has Signed

Repealing Obama-Era Rules And Regulations (15)

  • H.J.Res. 67: "Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of Labor relating to savings arrangements established by qualified State political subdivisions for non-governmental employees"
  • H.J.Res. 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"
  • H.J.Res. 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' "
  • H.J.Res. 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'"
  • S.J.Res. 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' "
  • H.J.Res. 42: "Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of Labor relating to drug testing of unemployment compensation applicants"
  • H.J.Res. 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"
  • H.J.Res. 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"
  • H.J.Res. 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"
  • H.J.Res. 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"
  • H.J.Res. 40: "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"
  • H.J.Res. 38: "Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of the Interior known as the Stream Protection Rule"
  • H.J.Res. 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.' "
  • H.J.Res. 66: "Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of Labor relating to savings arrangements established by States for non-governmental employees."

Modifying Existing Programs (6)

  • H.R. 353: "Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017"
  • S. 442: "National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017"
  • H.R. 72: "GAO Access and Oversight Act of 2017"
  • S. 419: "Public Safety Officers' Benefits Improvement Act of 2017"
  • S. 583: "American Law Enforcement Heroes Act of 2017"
  • H.R. 657 "Follow the Rules Act"

Encouraging An Agency To Try Something New (5)

  • H.R. 321: "Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act"
  • H.R. 255: "Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act"
  • H.R. 534: "U.S. Wants to Compete for a World Expo Act"
  • H.R. 274: "Modernizing Government Travel Act"
  • H.R. 366: "DHS SAVE Act"

Naming Something/Siting A Memorial/Encouraging Flag Flying (5)

  • S.J. Res. 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"
  • H.R. 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"
  • H.R. 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"
  • H.R. 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.'"

Personnel-Related (5)

  • S.J.Res. 30: "A joint resolution providing for the reappointment of Steve Case as a citizen regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution"
  • S.J.Res. 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"
  • S.J.Res. 35: "A joint resolution providing for the appointment of Michael Govan as a citizen regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution"
  • H.R. 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"

Extending Obama-Era Policy (2)

  • 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."
  • H.J.Res. 99: "Making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2017, and for other purposes."

Omnibus Appropriations Bill (1)

  • H.R. 244: "Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017"

New Policy (1)

  • S. 1094: "Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017"

Legislative links and text via GovTrack.

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