How many bills has Trump signed into law: And how does it compare to past presidents?

Donald Trump is the president who is probably most known for continuous boasting about his achievements, constantly repeating the claim of being one of the most prolific presidents in history. Along that line, he has tried to make his point on December 27th at a West Palm Beach fire station, stating that he has signed more legislation than any president, even breaking the record of Harry Truman. He would’ve made his point if that statement was correct.

The Measure of Accomplishments

This talk, as any else, is aimed to prove that he has accomplished a lot. More than any other president in his first 500 days, actually. Before we look at the numbers, we should consider what is the true measure of accomplishments? He’s been talking about economy and health, but his favorite asset consists of words ʽmassive tax and regulation cutsʼ. Okay, we have to admit that the job market and the economy are enjoying a positive stretch and that his party was the one which successfully passed a tax cut package. Although not the biggest one in U.S. history, this tax cut can truly be considered as an accomplishment. But is there anything else truly big?

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As a matter of fact, there is. One more, but equally important one. In order to locate it, we need to look into federal cannabis laws in the U.S. Cannabis has been classified as a Schedule I drug by the U.S. government since 1970, under the Controlled Substance Act. This made it completely illegal to possess, use, or grow its seeds. And made the much-needed research on its medicinal uses literally impossible. Everybody was expecting the reclassification to at least Schedule II drug during the Obama years, but the further this president got was to shift the focus of law enforcement and federal prosecutors to large-scale distribution by criminals and gangs rather than targeting medical and recreational cannabis operators. When Trump took the office, at first it has seemed that any further progress in legalization will be put to a halt. But in December 2018 suddenly a wave of change came as Trumped signed the Farm Bill, which didn’t reschedule marijuana but it’s cousin non-psychoactive plant, hemp. This has not only made cannabis which contains under 0.3% THC legal, but it has also made further research possible.

There’s no denying the importance of these two bills, but the fact that there are only two major accomplishments has already shaken up the boasting statement from the introduction. In order to shake it a little bit more, it’s time to take a look at the numbers.

Crunching The Numbers

Since his inauguration, Trump has managed to sign 176 bills. if you try to compare that with Barack Obama, you could say it’s a tie since he has signed 174 at the point in the presidency where Trump is right now. And he’s just a little bit behind George W. Bush who reached the number of 187. But if you take a look at Bil Clinton and George H. W. Bush, that’s a completely another story. They’ve both fairly surpassed the number already in their first 100 days, the first one reaching 262 and the second one 309 bills.

Moreover, when it comes to the number of the pieces of legislation signed, Trump actually ranked last. The criteria were post-World War II presidents who took office on a regular four-year cycle and the first calendar year of the mandate. This nosedive has happened already in 2017, on his 336th day in office, when he was eight bills behind George W. Bush and didn’t have as half as many as presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Even when you look at the actual number of pages signed, Trump is still not in the first place. He’s actually on the fourth with 2,038 pages. Admittedly, that’s more than twice as much George W. Bush had in his first year, but still much behind Obama who had 3, 473 pages.

To be honest, it was quite expected that all that boasting is an exaggeration and the numbers have just confirmed it. But the fact still remains that he did sign 176 bills into the law up to this point, which makes only two major achievements quite puzzling. In order to understand this, we need to take a closer look at how these bills measure up.

Symbols, Expansions & Dismantling

Yes, there are 176 signed bills, but the fact is that there aren’t many major legislative achievements among them. Considering the first year of Trumps Agenda, the successful passage of a massive – but not the biggest – Republican tax overhaul law remains the crowning victory. The importance of the Farm Bill is equally undeniable, but the majority of remaining laws were either aimed at dismantling the legislative legacy of former president Barack Obama, expansions upon the already existing legislation, or purely symbolic. Furthermore, it’s important to take into consideration that Trump has also used the Congressional Review Act on several occasions. This power that was previously little-used makes it a lot easier for him and the Congress to overturn federal regulations.

It’s easy to reach any number of signed bills if all legislation doesn’t need to be of equal importance.  Some of the ones signed by Trump were simply federal spending bills which are required periodically of every Congress and president in order to keep the government running. Some others were more substantive, but with a pretty limited effect. In the end, there was a lot of those which were purely ceremonial in nature. When you add the fact that the Congress that Trump has been working with is controlled by his own party – an asset that not many of his predecessors had at the beginning of their tenure – it’s obvious that the number of 176 bills is not difficult to reach.

Trump may have signed the most bills of any president since Truman in his first 100 days, but since then he’s only been falling further behind. As for his real achievements, he has never been even close.


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