President Trump, who as a candidate vowed “I alone can fix it,” has been taking some heat as of late for his failure to deliver on some of his major campaign promises — health care chief among them.
This isn't to suggest Trump hasn't been busy. He's been signing legislation at a rapid clip since entering office, putting his name on 20 bills since Jan. 20, according to the White House. By contrast, President Barack Obama had signed 10 bills in the comparable time period at the beginning of his administration.
But all legislation is not created equal — at least not in terms of impact. During Obama's first few weeks in office, he signed the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, extended federal funding for children's health insurance, authorized millions of acres of new public wilderness areas, expanded womens' ability to sue employers for pay discrimination and authorized a $410 billion omnibus spending bill.
In pure dollar terms, Trump's most significant action has been authorizing $19.5 billion in NASA spending. In Obama's first few weeks, by contrast, the children's' health insurance, stimulus and omnibus spending bills alone added up to nearly $1.3 trillion.
But Trump's biggest legislative footprint so far has been in the repeal of Obama-era regulations, which account for fully half of Trump's 20 signed pieces of legislation through April 3. Among other things, those rollbacks will:
- Make it easier for certain mentally ill people to purchase guns;
- Make it easier to shoot sleeping bears in their dens or from helicopters;
- Remove certain waterway protections from coal mining waste;
- Allow Internet service providers to track and sell customers' Web browser history without requiring permission;
- And make it easier to drug test people receiving unemployment benefits.
Trump and his allies have been particularly focused on highlighting the new president's accomplishments during his first weeks in office.
“The President of the United States has accomplished more in just a few weeks than many Presidents do in an entire administration,” said senior adviser Stephen Miller in a February TV interview.
But from a legislative standpoint, the bulk of Trump's efforts so far have involved undoing the work of his predecessor. So far, he has yet to bring his party together on a major deal of their own, despite selling himself to the public as America's dealmaker-in-chief.
That's partly a function, of course, of what Congress sends to his desk. Congressional Republicans have found governance much more difficult than opposition and have been unable to come to agreement on issued they campaigned on for years, like health care.
Despite controlling both chambers of Congress, Republicans in 2017 have not been able to agree with themselves on issues that have for years unified the party, like health care.
Moreover, Trump was the candidate who vowed, “I alone can fix it.” But he seems to be discovering that the realities of executive power in the federal government are quite different from his private sector experience may have led him to believe.
Moreover, for Trump's conservative Republican base, undoing Obama regulations and keeping spending to a minimum are likely a feature of the president's first 100 days, not a bug. But at some point, Congress and the president will need to come together to decide whether to keep the lights on.