The marker of the first 100 days of a presidency was set during the first administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR started office with plans, advisors, and legislation.
He called Congress into session and passed monumental legislation. Like Trump, Roosevelt had a Congress controlled by his own party.
The circumstances that Roosevelt faced were unique. Banks were shutting down. Depositors were losing their life’s savings. Businesses were running out of enough cash to keep going. At least 25 percent of American workers were unemployed. Many Americans felt it was a national emergency.
“When Roosevelt took power on March 4, 1933, many influential Americans doubted the capacity of a democratic government to act decisively enough to save the country,” writes historian Anthony Badger in “FDR: The First Hundred Days.” “Machine guns guarded government buildings. The newspapers and his audience responded most enthusiastically to Roosevelt’s promises in his inaugural to assume wartime powers if necessary. That sense of emergency certainly made Congress willing to give FDR unprecedented power.” Adds political scientist William Leuchtenburg in “The FDR Years”: “Roosevelt came to office at a desperate time, in the fourth year of a worldwide depression that raised the gravest doubts about the future of Western civilization.”
Roosevelt immediately called Congress into special session and kept it there for three months. He found that the Democrats who were in control were eager to do his bidding, and even some Republicans were cooperative. Raymond Moley, a member of FDR’s inner circle, said many legislators “had forgotten to be Republicans or Democrats” as they worked together to relieve the crisis.
FDR quickly won congressional passage for a series of social, economic, and job-creating bills that greatly increased the authority of the federal government—the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, which supplied states and localities with federal money to help the jobless; the Civil Works Administration to create jobs during the first winter of his administration; and the Works Progress Administration, which replaced FERA, pumped money into circulation, and concentrated on longer-term projects. The Public Works Administration focused on creating jobs through heavy construction in such areas as water systems, power plants, and hospitals. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. protected bank accounts. The Civilian Conservation Corps provided jobs for unemployed young men. The Tennessee Valley Authority boosted regional development. Also approved were the Emergency Banking Act, the Farm Credit Act, and the National Industrial Recovery Act.
In all, Roosevelt got 15 major bills through Congress in his first 100 days. “Congress doesn’t pass legislation anymore—they just wave at the bills as they go by,” said humorist Will Rogers.
Trump’s party controls both houses of Congress. Not a single piece of legislation has passed. Here is an insightful summary of Trump’s first 100 days.
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