ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Even though President Trump calls the 100-days measure ridiculous, the White House is still touting what one press release called the president's historic accomplishments, including 28 laws he signed since taking office. They say that number is more than any president since Truman. When I saw that number - 28 bills signed into law - it seemed high to me. I was surprised, and so I asked NPR's Tamara Keith to look into how we get to that number. And she's here in the studio with us. Hi, Tam.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hi.
SHAPIRO: Sounds like a big number - is it?
KEITH: It is a big number relatively speaking. Political scientists, though, will tell you, don't measure legislation by adding. Measure by looking at significance. And when it comes to significance, whether these bills change the status quo or introduce a new policy idea, there's less to show for President Trump's first 100 days.
I just want to give you an example, a little piece of audio where Press Secretary Sean Spicer did what he often does - describe the president's accomplishments for the day. And here's the part where he talked about legislation.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
SEAN SPICER: He also signed House Joint Resolution 42, allowing states to drug test unemployment insurance claims, and H.R. 1362, naming a VA outpatient clinic in Pago Pago, American Samoa.
SHAPIRO: OK, so naming a VA clinic and, for example, repeal and replacing Obamacare would each be one point on the legislative scoreboard, but they're very different kinds of bills.
KEITH: Very different. And 2 of the 28 bills do actually name VA facilities. But 13 of the measures are significant, and they're part of something called the Congressional Review Act. That allows Congress to overturn rules created by federal agencies that haven't yet taken effect.
So President Trump and the Republican Congress came in, and they said, we want to overturn a bunch of these Obama-era rules. And some of those are significant. This included a stream protection rule. Environmentalists, Democrats say that this is an important environmental protection. Republicans and others say that it was hurting the coal industry.
SHAPIRO: So when you look at the legislative scorecard that the White House puts out now and compare it to the campaign promises that candidate Trump made, how do they compare?
KEITH: They're kind of apples and oranges. When candidate Trump in October put out his contract with the American voter, he said that he was going to introduce and push for the passage of 10 bills. Of those 10 bills, only one has been introduced, and that is the measure to repeal and replace Obamacare. As we know, that is...
SHAPIRO: That didn't pass.
KEITH: It did not. It didn't even get a vote.
KEITH: It may get a vote at some point some time. They don't want to put a timetable on it. And then there's the tax reform measure that isn't a measure yet, that is broad principles that Scott talked about - not a bill yet. But the Trump administration would argue this is not how a Republican president should be judged. A Democratic president wants to create things, wants to make programs. A Republican president wants to undo regulation.
SHAPIRO: They want government to do less. They want it to be smaller.
KEITH: Exactly. And in that respect, the Trump administration says, look; we've done these 13 rule rollbacks. And they say the biggest legislative accomplishment they point to is getting Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the Supreme Court.
SHAPIRO: When we're talking about legislation passed in the first 100 days, it's not only a referendum on the president. This is also about Congress, right?
KEITH: It absolutely is and how the president works with Congress. And even if his party controls both Houses of Congress, things don't necessarily happen quickly or easily. George W. Bush's first tax cut, his No Child Left Behind law - those didn't happen in his first 100 days.
President Obama got the stimulus bill passed, but he didn't get Obamacare or Dodd-Frank done until much later. So for President Trump, if at the end of this year he hasn't gotten a significant legislative accomplishment, he will not be judged kindly.
SHAPIRO: NPR's Tamara Keith, thanks for the explanation.
KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.