by John T. Bennett · March 11, 2017
On one hand, the first 50 days of Donald Trump’s presidency, in some ways, closely resemble those of his recent predecessors. But on the other, those similarities largely have been overshadowed by missteps and inflammatory tweets.
A botched executive order temporarily banning many Muslims from entering the United States, allegations that former President Barack Obama tapped his phones, and an otherwise chaotic seven weeks have defined Trump’s first 50 days. But data reviewed by CQ Roll Call stretching back to the opening days of the Reagan administration shows Trump is off to a start much like several other recent commanders in chief.
(Friday marks the 50th day — partial or full — during which Trump has held the title of president of the United States and been trailed by the nuclear “football,” a span that began just after noon on Jan. 20.)
A major theme of Trump’s still-young presidency has been his executive orders, which have twice temporarily restricted entry into the country by individuals from some Muslim-majority countries, fast-tracked two oil pipeline projects, altered federal regulation practices, frozen federal hiring, expedited the environmental permitting process, targeted the Obama administration’s 2010 health care law, and others. Some of the orders, like the travel ban, have had muscle. Others, like those ordering federal entities to review things, have not. And in their total, Trump is on a pace similar to Obama.
After his first 50 days, the 44th president had issued 33 executive orders. Trump has signed 28 so far. In this category, Trump and Obama are linked because their use of executive orders and memoranda has far outpaced that of presidents going back to Reagan.
Yet, Trump’s orders seem to carry more weight. That’s largely because of coast-to-coast protests after he signed the initial travel ban order in late January.
“I think what you see is Trump and his people are doing things that are too rushed, and I think he’s very impatient and basically goes off without thinking or preparing a lot,” said Brad Bannon, a Democratic political strategist. “The travel ban is probably the best example of that. I think there was just no real thought about how federal judges would react. Some of these orders have been thrown together in a kind of slapdash fashion.”
But some Republicans, like Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, see a different image.
The duo met privately Tuesday with Trump. Perdue told reporters after the session that the first half of Trump’s first 100 days have kick-started “the early makings of some growing confidence at the consumer level, and also at the corporate level, in terms of investing.”
“We think what is happening right now is the president’s conversation about pulling back on regulations, the impending tax work that we’re going to do later this year, and also the health care work that we’re doing right now to replace and repeal Obamacare [are] getting traction in the real world,” Perdue said.
Cotton said the new president “already has made good on his early campaign promises,” including “not letting anyone in this country that intends to do America harm, and also [increasing] the pace of enforcement of our immigration laws.”
The 45th president has enacted a comparable number of laws as two recent chief executives. His seven so far matches Obama and is one more than Bill Clinton; both Bushes each enacted just one during their first 50 days, with Ronald Reagan enacting four. The average size of those laws under Trump has been two pages, putting him on par with George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Ronald Reagan. One of the biggest differences the reviewed data reveals is how Trump’s two-page average stacks up against Obama’s 74-page average.
To be fair, Obama inherited a global economic crisis, and signed a 407-page stimulus bill during his first 50 days. There was no comparable crisis that Trump was forced to address via legislation.
But the 104-page expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program that Obama signed into law shows the difference between the two White Houses, Bannon said.
“If you look at the people working in Obama White House, many had already done the White House thing for Clinton,” Bannon said. “They knew where all the bathrooms were. Rahm Emanuel was Obama’s first chief of staff, but [senior Trump aides] Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus had no previous White House experience. The health insurance bill shows Obama’s people knew more of the ropes, whereas the Trump people, not so much.” On executive nominations, Trump has made 63 and got 17 confirmed.
Here, Reagan stands supreme: He got 118 executive nominees on the job within his first 50 days after sending a whopping 254 names to Capitol Hill. Democrats have been slow-walking some of Trump’s nominees, using committee and floor rules to keep his confirmation total on par with the elder Bush’s 18.
Despite the opposition party’s tactics, some Republican senators want the White House to pick up the pace.
“I continue to ask for additional names to come forward, and I’m assured that they will be soon,” Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Barrasso said Tuesday.
The Wyoming lawmaker even brought the matter up with Vice President Mike Pence, Trump’s ambassador to Capitol Hill: “He assures us that there’s a long list coming soon.”