The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump has signed the fewest new laws at this point of any recent president

President Trump during a meeting in the Oval Office. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Over the course of his time in office, President Trump has thrown out a number of metrics meant to prove how effective he’s been. There’s the confirmation of Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, which Trump mentions often. The stock market, another favorite. Cutting regulations comes up often, too.

He’s also often touted just how much he’s done legislatively. Particularly when the 100-day mark of his presidency was approaching, Trump insisted that he’d signed into law more legislation than any other president (occasionally appending an exception or two). Often, he’d conflate his legislative efforts with his executive orders, creating a new metric by which he stood alone.

Even by June, though, Trump was falling behind other recent presidents in terms of legislation signed into law — that despite having a Congress in which both chambers had Republican majorities. Many of the bills that Trump signed into law in his first few months were ones leveraging the Congressional Review Act, for which there was only a limited window of applicability. The early flood, such as it was, became a trickle.

Josh Tauberer of GovTrack compiled data from the Library of Congress and the Government Publishing Office on where Trump stands today. Of the 10 most recent presidents who took office after an election (not a resignation or death), Trump is in last place in terms of legislation signed by this point in his first year.

The last time Trump led the pack in terms of new legislation by day of his presidency? According to Tauberer’s numbers, it was on April 29 — the 100th day of Trump’s presidency.

By Tauberer’s count, 93 pieces of legislation have become law since Jan. 20 of this year — excluding two bills which may become law this week. (One would be enacted under the 10-day rule, which doesn’t require a presidential signature; the other could be signed Thursday.) This doesn’t include the tax bill, either, which Trump is apparently planning to sign into law early next month. Even with those two bills, though, Trump is still well behind the president with the second-least number of new bills: Barack Obama, who had 118 by this point in 2009.

That said, though, Obama had a lot of big bills. By Dec. 21, 2009, he had signed into law nearly 3,500 pages of legislation, far more than his recent predecessors. (A big chunk of this was a function of the measures taken to combat the effects of the recession.)

On this metric, Trump comes in fifth. (The big recent spike was the 2018 national defense authorization.)

Rolling in those two pending laws would add only five pages to Trump’s total.

Many supporters of Trump will no doubt respond to this data with a one-word response: Good. Fewer laws means smaller government, the argument goes, which Trump was elected to implement. But, as we’ve noted before, it can take a new law to undo an older one or an old regulation — which is what those Congressional Review Act measures were focused on.

What’s more, we aren’t the ones who set the standard of legislation being a mark of success: Trump did.

By his standard on this metric, Trump’s first year hasn’t been an unmitigated success.