Early on, plenty of drama but little progress on Trump’s 100-days campaign script
“It is a contract between myself and the American voter — and it begins with restoring honesty and accountability, and bringing change to Washington.”
President Trump, in the “Contract with the American Voter,” issued Oct. 22, 2016
On Oct. 22, just weeks before the election, President Trump released what he called his “Contract with the American Voter.” This was an unusually detailed plan of action that would guide his administration in the first 100 days, listing 60 specific promises. He even signed the “contract” with his distinctive signature.
At the Fact Checker, we’ve been tracking the progress of each pledge on an interactive Web page. With Trump having passed the one-third mark of his 100 days — and planning to address Congress on Tuesday — this seemed like an appropriate moment to take stock.
What is striking is that despite the drama of Trump’s first month in office, he has made little or no progress on many of his promises. Six promises are listed as “kept,” while 45 have seen no action. We also list seven as “launched,” one as “stuck” and one as “broken.”
Perhaps this should not be a surprise. Trump, in his contract, set extremely ambitious goals for himself. He listed 18 items that “on my first day in office, my administration will immediately pursue.”
The White House now says he did not mean he would do all on his first day, only that he would “pursue” them over the next 100 days. The rest of his pledges were listed as “broader legislative measures” that Trump would work on with Congress “and fight for their passage within the first 100 days of my administration.”
Most of the promises that have been kept were easy to carry out, with action shortly after Trump took the oath of office. Trump announced that the United States was withdrawing from the TransPacific Partnership trade deal, the pan-Asian agreement that had been a signature effort of the previous administration. But Trump’s announcement was largely symbolic, because the trade deal was already dead in Congress.
Trump also imposed a hiring freeze across the federal government, selected a Supreme Court replacement for the late Antonin Scalia, lifted roadblocks to the Keystone XL pipeline and issued a requirement that for every new federal regulation, two regulations must be eliminated.
But the regulation order might turn out to be the equivalent of President Obama’s pledge to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Obama signed an executive order on his first day in office to close Guantanamo, but he could not accomplish the goal over his two terms because of political and legal obstacles. Trump, likewise, will find that any effort to scrap a regulation will require a laborious process — and be subject to litigation. Some experts believe the requirement is probably illegal. So it is possible that this “promise kept” eventually will shift to “stalled.”
That’s what happened to one key promise: “Suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur.” Trump’s executive order banning entry to travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia), including permanent U.S. residents, was hastily drafted and badly executed. As a result, it was blocked in the federal court system; the administration now says it is drafting a new order.
Many of the promises regarded as launched also concern immigration. Trump said he would begin the removal of more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants, cancel the visas of people from countries that won’t take back illegal immigrants, cancel federal funding to “sanctuary cities” and fund the construction of a wall on the U.S.Mexico border. Trump has signed orders that, to some extent, fulfill these pledges, but the implementation and followthrough is open to question.
Trump, in some cases, already has lowered his standards. He had pledged to immediately cancel the visas of people from countries that refuse to accept the return of criminal illegal immigrants. Instead, he signed an executive order on Jan. 25 that said: “The Secretary of State shall, to the maximum extent permitted by law, ensure that diplomatic efforts and negotiations with foreign states include as a condition precedent the acceptance by those foreign states of their nationals who are subject to removal from the United States.” That’s a significant pullback.
The United States has only twice discontinued the granting of visas to countries that refuse to accept undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes: Guyana in 2001 and Gambia in 2016. Twenty-three countries have refused to accept criminal aliens, including China, which has rejected 1,900 criminals since 2008. So this will be an interesting test case of when campaign rhetoric meets diplomatic reality. Would Trump really damage relations with an economic superpower to fulfill a campaign pledge?
Trump has promised to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act — he signed an executive order to that effect on Jan. 20 — but GOP lawmakers are struggling to reach a consensus on a replacement. Former House speaker John A. Boehner (ROhio) flatly predicted Thursday that it “is not going to happen.” He said “most of the framework” of Obamacare would survive the legislative fight. If Boehner’s prediction holds true, we would rate that as a broken promise by Trump.
Trump already has broken one promise: imposing a five-year ban on White House and congressional officials’ becoming lobbyists after they leave government service. The executive order that Trump signed Jan. 28 regarding executive-branch officials made no reference to congressional officials. Moreover, the five-year ban applies only to lobbying one’s former agency — not becoming a lobbyist. Trump weakened some of the language from similar bans under Obama and George W. Bush, and he reduced the level of transparency.
One of Trump’s signature promises was to make Mexico pay for the border wall, which has been estimated to cost as much as $25 billion to build. Trump was supposed to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto shortly after he took office, but Peña Nieto canceled the meeting after Trump tweeted: “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.”
The two men later arranged a phone conversation. Since then, Trump has been silent on his promise that Mexico would fund the wall. Instead, he has emphasized how he would keep costs down. “The price is going to come down, just like it has on everything else I’ve negotiated for the government,” Trump asserted at a news conference on Feb. 16.
There are dozens of other 100day promises on which Trump has taken no action, including:
Directing the treasury secretary to label China a currency manipulator.
Enacting new ethics rules to reduce the “corrupting influence of special interests.”
Passing a law to protect vital infrastructure from cyberattacks.
Reforming visa rules to ensure open jobs are offered to Americans first.
Canceling billions in payments to the United Nations’ climate change programs and directing the money to fixing U.S. infrastructure.
Providing incentives to employers to provide on-site child-care services.
Proposing a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress.
Some of Trump’s promises appear to be impractical, which could be why no action has been taken. He promised to impose a “complete ban” on foreign lobbyists raising money for U.S. elections. But it’s already illegal for foreign nationals and foreign governments to contribute money to U.S. political campaigns. Trump also said he would “end Common Core,” but those educational standards were developed by governments and school superintendents and adopted at the state level. Obama encouraged states to adopt the standards through incentives, but those programs have ended. (The White House did not respond to questions about whether any promises were being scaled back or shelved.)
Finally, Trump promised to create 10 million jobs in his first term and grow the economy at a rate of 4 percent a year. The jobs promise may be in reach — five of the last 10 presidential terms, including Obama’s second term, resulted in at least 10 million jobs — but the economic-growth target will be a difficult promise to keep. The annual change in the gross domestic product has not topped 3 percent in 10 years — and last exceeded 4 percent in 2000.
The Fact Checker GLENN KESSLER