Trump Signed 96 Laws In 2017. Here Is What They Do And How They Measure Up Despite his own claims to the contrary, President Trump signed fewer laws than any of his recent predecessors. But numbers aren't everything. Significance matters more.
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Trump Signed 96 Laws In 2017. Here Is What They Do And How They Measure Up

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Trump Signed 96 Laws In 2017. Here Is What They Do And How They Measure Up

Trump Signed 96 Laws In 2017. Here Is What They Do And How They Measure Up

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

What is the verdict on Donald Trump's first year in office? Well, the president gave himself high grades in a Christmas Eve tweet. He said, what an incredible year we had. Don't let the fake news convince you otherwise. Well, NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith has been reviewing Trump's first year in office, and she joins us now. Hi, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hey.

SIEGEL: And I'm going to continue now with Trump's very laudatory self-appraisal. This is what he said last week as he signed two bills, a temporary government funding measure and the massive $1 and a half trillion tax cut.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Legislative approvals for which I'm given no credit in the mainstream media - we have - I believe it's 88, which is number one in the history of our country. Second now is Harry Truman. Harry Truman had more legislative approvals than any other president.

SIEGEL: Tam, President Trump makes a lot of claims there. Can you give us a quick fact check?

KEITH: Gladly. So in a rare occurrence, Trump is actually selling himself short. He signed 96 bills into law this year, not 88. As for beating Truman, he's not even close. Trump actually trails all of his recent predecessors in the number of bills signed. And the Truman Library gives a rough estimate of about 240 to 250 bills signed in his first year, so Trump is trailing by a lot.

SIEGEL: Does the White House explain that gap between pretty easily documented record and the president's claim of numbers?

KEITH: I actually went to them and said, what is this Truman claim because it doesn't seem to match up? And they never responded. But you know, it's important to say that tallying bills is...

SIEGEL: Yeah.

KEITH: ...A truly terrible way to measure accomplishment. Political scientists will say look at significance instead. That's a much better measure.

SIEGEL: Well, let's do that. There are bills, and there are bills. Of those 96 bills that President Trump signed, how many could be called truly significant?

KEITH: Well, one political scientist I talked to said one - the tax bill. It is truly significant. In addition to cutting $1.5 trillion in taxes and reshaping the tax code in significant ways, it also includes a provision repealing the penalty for not buying health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and it opens up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, all of these things on Republicans' to-do list, wish list. Other than that, there are a lot of bills that do a lot of small things.

There are 37 bills that modify or reauthorize existing programs. There were seven temporary funding or disaster relief bills. There were two bills that I would classify as basic government maintenance, things you have to do every year like funding the government and things like that. And then there's the category of bills that is always my favorite category, the one that honors people by naming buildings after them or setting up memorial commissions. And there were about a dozen of those bills.

SIEGEL: Now, legislation isn't the only way that a president enacts his agenda. How does President Trump stack up when it comes to regulations or to judicial nominations?

KEITH: The president has made a lot of changes, and people I talk to say they are the kind of changes that you would expect from a Republican president and a Republican Congress. There has been a huge shift from emphasizing environmental protections to promoting fossil fuel production and energy generation. There's been a big push at deregulation throughout the government, something that the Trump administration is very proud of.

And then there are the courts. President Trump has gotten Justice Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. And there are also 12 circuit judges that have been confirmed by the Senate, and those are lifetime appointments.

SIEGEL: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith, who also hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, thanks.

KEITH: You're welcome.

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