Updated at 11:02 p.m. ET
When President Trump signed the $1.5 trillion tax cut bill on Friday at the White House, he made a bold claim — that his "legislative approvals" were off the charts. "No. 1 in the history of our country," he said, citing 88 as the number of bills he had signed into law.
The actual number of laws Trump signed this year is 96. His claim of historic achievement isn't accurate, either.
But that didn't stop him from repeating the erroneous claim Wednesday during a visit with firefighters in West Palm Beach, Fla.
"We have signed more legislation than anybody," Trump said.
He hasn't. In sheer numbers of bills signed into law during a president's first year in office (Jan. 20-Dec. 31), Trump is behind his six most recent predecessors.
According to tallies by GovTrack, Trump also trails Nixon, Kennedy and Eisenhower.
In making his claim, Trump also boasted that he had exceeded even former President Harry S. Truman's record for the number of bills signed.
"Harry Truman had more legislative approvals than any other president and — a record long held," Trump said. "And we beat him on legislative approvals, for which I get no credit."
One reason he may not be getting credit is that, according to a rough estimate from the Truman Library, Trump isn't even close to Truman's record.
Three White House spokespersons did not respond to a request from NPR to explain which record Trump was referring to, given that he trailed so many of his predecessors in the number of bills signed into law.
In any case, tallying laws signed is not necessarily a good way to measure accomplishment.
Political scientists say a far better — though more subjective — measure is significance, because not all bills are created equal. For instance, "S 810: A bill to facilitate construction of a bridge on certain property in Christian County, Missouri, and for other purposes" isn't in the same realm of significance as "HR 3364: Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act."
NPR analyzed all 96 laws signed by Trump this year, categorizing them. More than three dozen modify or extend existing law; 16 repeal rules and regulations using a process known as the Congressional Review Act; a dozen commemorate or honor people and organizations such as by renaming federal buildings; and seven provide temporary government funding or one-time disaster relief funds.
"This tax bill is a big deal," said John Frendreis, professor of political science at Loyola University Chicago. "But I don't think anybody would regard anything else that has come down the line as a significant legislative achievement."
The 96 Laws Trump Has Signed
Takes action needed every year/basic maintenance governing (2)
- HR 244 Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017
- HR 2810 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018
Implements new policy (3)
- S 1094 Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017
- HR 3364 Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act
- HR 1 An Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018 [This is the GOP tax bill.]
Temporarily funds government, provides one-time disaster relief (7)
- HJRes 99 Making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2017, and for other purposes
- HR 601 Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018 and Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, 2017
- HR 3732 Emergency Aid to American Survivors of Hurricanes Irma and Jose Overseas Act
- HR 3823 Disaster Tax Relief and Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2017
- HR 2266 Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, 2017
- HJRes 123 Making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2018, and for other purposes
- HR 1370 Continuing Appropriations Act, Department of Defense Missile Defeat and Defense Enhancements Appropriations Act, CHIP and Public Health Funding Extension Act, 2018
Repeals rules and regulations (16)
These resolutions were passed through a previously obscure process known as the Congressional Review Act, which requires only a simple majority for passage in the Senate. Because these measures can't be filibustered in the Senate, they've been an easy way for Republicans, even with only a narrow Senate majority, to reverse Obama-era regulations that hadn't yet taken effect.
- HJRes 67 Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of Labor relating to savings arrangements established by qualified State political subdivisions for non-governmental employees
- HJRes 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
- HJRes 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"
- HJRes 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"
- SJRes 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"
- HJRes 4 Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of Labor relating to drug testing of unemployment compensation applicants
- HJRes 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
- HJRes 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
- HJRes 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
- HJRes 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
- HJRes 4 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
- HJRes 38 Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of the Interior known as the Stream Protection Rule
- HJRes 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"
- HJRes 66 Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of Labor relating to savings arrangements established by States for non-governmental employees
- HJRes 111 Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection relating to "Arbitration Agreements"
Encourages an agency or the president to try something new (13)
- HR 321 Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act
- HR 255 Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act
- HR 534 U.S. Wants to Compete for a World Expo Act
- HR 274 Modernizing Government Travel Act
- HR 366 DHS SAVE Act
- S 327 Fair Access to Investment Research Act of 2017
- S 810 A bill to facilitate construction of a bridge on certain property in Christian County, Missouri, and for other purposes
- S 1141 Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017
- HR 1117 To require the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to submit a report regarding certain plans regarding assistance to applicants and grantees during the response to an emergency or disaster
- S 190 Power And Security Systems (PASS) Act
- S 920 National Clinical Care Commission Act
- HR 194 Federal Agency Mail Management Act of 2017
- HR 1545 VA Prescription Data Accountability Act 2017
Reauthorizes or modifies existing programs/law (37)
- HR 353 Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017
- S 442 National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017
- S 419: Public Safety Officers' Benefits Improvement Act of 2017
- S 583 American Law Enforcement Heroes Act of 2017
- HR 72 GAO Access and Oversight Act of 2017
- HR 657 Follow the Rules Act
- S 1083 A bill to amend section 1214 of title 5, United States Code, to provide for stays during a period that the Merit Systems Protection Board lacks a quorum
- HR 3218 Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017
- HR 1238 Securing our Agriculture and Food Act
- HR 3298 Wounded Officers Recovery Act of 2017
- HR 374 To remove the sunset provision of section 203 of Public Law 105-384, and for other purposes
- HR 510 Rapid DNA Act of 2017
- HR 2430 FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017
- HR 339 Northern Mariana Islands Economic Expansion Act
- HJRes 76 Granting the consent and approval of Congress for the Commonwealth of Virginia, the State of Maryland, and the District of Columbia to enter into a compact relating to the establishment of the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission
- HR 2288 Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017
- S 1866 Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria Education Relief Act of 2017
- S 652 Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act of 2017
- 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
- S 114 VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017
- HR 3819 Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2017
- S 585 Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017
- HR 1329 Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2017
- HR 1616 Strengthening State and Local Cyber Crime Fighting Act of 2017
- S 504 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards Act of 2017
- S 782 PROTECT Our Children Act of 2017
- HR 304 Protecting Patient Access to Emergency Medications Act of 2017
- HR 3031 TSP Modernization Act of 2017
- HR 3243 FITARA Enhancement Act of 201
- HR 3949 VALOR Act
- HR 4374 To amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to authorize additional emergency uses for medical products to reduce deaths and severity of injuries caused by agents of war, and for other purposes
- HR 228 Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Consolidation Act of 2017
- S 371 Department of State Authorities Act, Fiscal Year 2017, Improvements Act
- S 1266 Enhancing Veteran Care Act
- HR 624 Social Security Number Fraud Prevention Act of 2017
- S 178 Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act
- HR 1679 FEMA Accountability, Modernization and Transparency Act of 2017
Names something/sites a memorial/encourages flag-flying/makes a statement (12)
- SJRes 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
- HR 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
- HR 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
- HR 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"
- HR 873 Global War on Terrorism War Memorial Act
- HR 2210 To designate the community living center of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Butler Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania, as the "Sergeant Joseph George Kusick VA Community Living Center"
- SJRes 49 A joint resolution condemning the violence and domestic terrorist attack that took place during events between August 11 and August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, recognizing the first responders who lost their lives while monitoring the events, offering deepest condolences to the families and friends of those individuals who were killed and deepest sympathies and support to those individuals who were injured by the violence, expressing support for the Charlottesville community, rejecting White nationalists, White supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups, and urging the President and the President's Cabinet to use all available resources to address the threats posed by those groups
- S 1616 Bob Dole Congressional Gold Medal Act
- HR 2519 The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act
- HR 2989 Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission Act
- S 1617 Javier Vega, Jr. Memorial Act of 2017
Relates to personnel (6)
- SJRes 30 A joint resolution providing for the reappointment of Steve Case as a citizen regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution
- SJRes 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
- SJRes 35 A joint resolution providing for the appointment of Michael Govan as a citizen regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution
- HR 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
- HR 3110 Financial Stability Oversight Council Insurance Member Continuity Act
Legislative links and text via GovTrack
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.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
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...
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. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.