Donald Trump has been in office for 200 days. And to celebrate, he's starting the first full week of what he has described as a "working" vacation at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club.
In honor of the 200th day of the reign of His Orangeness, I decided to take a look at just what "work" he has done up to this point. Since one of the main jobs of the president when his party also controls Congress is to cooperate with them on a legislative agenda, I focused on the bills Trump has signed.
On June 10 the conservative Washington Times crowed that Trump at that point had signed more bills into law than his four predecessors. And, for good measure, they added a quote from a statement issued by House Speaker Paul Ryan and GOP Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, which bragged about the "productivity" of the Republican Congress:
"The Republican-led House has passed 158 bills, making it the most productive in the modern-era."
Of course not all of those bills have made it through the Senate, and some, such as the Obamacare repeal, appear to be dead. As of August 4 the list of legislation signed by Trump, as provided on the WhiteHouse.gov webpage, has 44 entries. The claim that Trump has signed more bills than Clinton, W. Bush, or Obama is actually pretty accurate, as far as it goes. But not all of the bills that reach a president's desk carry the same weight, and most of those that Trump has signed are definitely of the "lighter weight" variety.
Here is a summary of everything Trump has signed so far.
Fifteen of the 44 have been bills passed to roll back Obama-era rules and regulations at federal agencies. There were three bills that renamed federal buildings. Three other bills that Trump signed were for appointments to the board of regents at the Smithsonian Institution. Another declared March 29 as "Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Day." Still another was an act approving a memorial for military members who served during Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield. And there was one that called for the US to compete for a World's Fair.
Among the remaining 20 pieces of legislation, the most important one was one that Trump didn't want to sign: HR 3364, the "Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act." That, of course, was the bill that Congress used to not only add new sanctions against North Korea, Iran, and Russia, but it also denies Trump the ability to remove those sanctions at will.
He did sign a trillion dollar spending bill that increased Pentagon funding by some $15 billion and provided the funds to prevent a government shutdown. And in June he signed a bill aimed at reforming the Veterans' Administration. As far as substantive legislation goes, those three bills are about it.
Granted, Trump can only sign what the Congress sends him. But the coordination of the legislative agenda between the White House and the Capitol that you usually find with one party control has largely been missing. Look at what President Obama did with a Democratic Congress during his first few months, passing the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the economic stimulus bill, and the reauthorization of the children's health insurance, or "CHIP" program.
Trump also has three big pieces of legislation he wants passed: Obamacare repeal, tax reform, and funds for his big, beautiful border wall. As it stands right now, tax reform is the only one of the three that looks like it stands even a small chance of making it to his desk. Congressional Republicans, particularly in the House, have been looking to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for guidance, and generally finding none. Trump has taken little interest in helping craft legislation even for things he has indicated as priorities.
Sure you can argue that Trump has signed a number of executive orders, addressing a variety of issues. But executive orders are not law, and can be wiped out by the stroke of a successor's pen. When it comes to presidential legacies, legislative achievements are one of the most important parts of judging the success or failure of a chief executive.
Given the current level of dysfunction in the government, we may not want to be in a big hurry to show Trump the door; at least not until Democrats can recapture one or both houses of Congress. Because Mike Pence, unlike Trump, understands how Congress works, and he would certainly get along better with his own party than Trump seems to be doing at the present time. Which means that it is very likely a lot of things that are going nowhere at the moment would suddenly find new life.
Given the fact that very little has gotten done while Trump has been in Washington, you have to wonder what kind of "work" is Trump going to be doing while in New Jersey for almost three weeks? Most likely working on his drives or his putts. Working on advancing the interests of "the world's greatest person" -- Donald J. Trump. Working on giving himself credit for more things that he actually had little if anything to do with. But certainly not working on producing anything of value for the American people.