On President Donald Trump’s 100th day in office, he had signed more bills into law than his last three predecessors. By his 200th day in office on August 7, Trump had signed 44 bills into law.
Stretching back to 1953, the average number of laws presidents signed in their first 200 days was 111, according to an analysis from legislative database GovTrack. That’s mostly because former Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy signed an enormous amount of legislation in their second 100 days.
GovTrack Founder Josh Tauberer said “a lot has changed” since Trump’s 100-day mark, when the president had signed 29 bills into law. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, by comparison, respectively signed 14, seven, and 22 laws in their first 100 days.
“Most presidents have signed more legislation than Trump by this [200-day] point,” Tauberer told Business Insider. “Trump signed some large legislation, including an early appropriations bill, significantly bringing up his page count.”
Tauberer found the total number of laws signed and total number of pages those bills were from Trump all the way back to Ike. He excluded Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Gerald Ford because their first 200 days weren’t normal (Johnson took office after Kennedy was shot, and Ford became president after President Richard Nixon resigned). Here’s what he found:
In his first 200 days, Trump signed a NASA bill to send humans to Mars, a resolution to keep the government funded through September, new sanctions on Russia for meddling in the 2016 election, and several laws helping veterans. (See the full list here »)
100 days, 200 days
Franklin D. Roosevelt is the reason people focus on a president’s first 100 days.
Signing a dizzying number of laws and executive orders that made up the monstrous New Deal, FDR got more done in his first 100 days in office than any president before him or any since. Part of the reason was because he took office in the depths of the Great Depression, and used his “honeymoon period” with Congress to stabilise the economy.
Of course, presidents don’t have total control over their time in office.
“It helps to keep in mind that neither Trump nor Obama wrote the laws they signed,” Tauberer told Business Insider at the 100-day mark. “They can only sign the bills that Congress gives them, and although presidents like to take lots of credit, they actually have an insignificant role in the passage of most of them.”
Notably, Trump couldn’t sign a bill repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, because Congress couldn’t pass one for him to sign in his first 200 days.
But the overall number of bills signed into law is just part of the story. The vast differences between the number of pages or words those bills contained start to reveal what types of laws they were and what effects they ultimately had.
Tauberer explained that, generally speaking, bills with more words usually create government programs, while those with fewer are often rolling back regulations or programs. Obama’s stimulus package to keep the government funded had 358,113, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act had 294,307.
The number of pages or words in laws can be a good or bad thing, depending on what you want the federal government to do.
“If what you want is the government to roll back and simplify regulations, then you’re not looking for lengthy legislation. It doesn’t take many words to roll back a regulation,” Tauberer said in April. “The 13 bills from Congress that Trump signed that rolled back regulations did do that, and some were significant, but on the whole that was a symbolic effort because 13 doesn’t make even a dent.”
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