Link to the White House for Latest Developments 2004

While much commentary surrounds a new administration's first 100 days in office, the first six months or 180 days provide a more useful benchmark.  By August 2001, as Congress headed to its summer recess and President Bush went off on a month-long working vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, the president pronounced himself pleased with the progress of his administration.  "We are ending deadlock and drift and making our system work on behalf of the American people," he stated.  Democrats had a different view, critizing Bush for what he "has not done and what he has undone."

Given the closeness of the 2000 election, it seemed quite possible that Bush would have a difficult time governing and that he might not have much of a "honeymoon period."  However, just four and a half months into his term, on June 7, 2001 in the East Room of the White House, Bush signed into law a tax cut bill estimated at $1.35 trillion; by late July the Treasury was sending out advance payment checks.  Bush's ability to implement one of his major campaign promises in such a short time stands as a signal accomplishment.  On the downside, a couple of weeks earlier, the administration suffered one of its first significant setbacks when on May 24 Sen. Jim Jeffords (VT) announced he was leaving the Republican party and becoming an Independent; the move, when it took effect, tipped control of the Senate to the Democrats.

During the 2000 campaign, Bush set out six or seven clearly defined major priorities.  In addition to the tax cut, these included education reform, bolstering defense, reforming Medicare, changing Social Security to provide the option of individual investments, a faith-based initiative, and the more amorphous goal of changing the tone in Washington.  Since the election, issues such as the energy crisis, the weakening economy, and a patient's bill of rights have also moved to the fore.  Any president has a range of tools he can use to advance his agenda: legislative proposals, executive orders, appointments, speeches, and press conferences.  Bush has taken a relatively low key approach.  Commentators have pointed out that he has not made as frequent use of the bully pulpit as he might have, and several studies found that he attracted markedly less coverage in the early months of his administration than did Clinton.  At the same time, however, during the six-month period, Bush traveled to more states than any recent president (33 according to the Washington Post).

President Bush outlined his priorities in a speech to a joint session of Congress Feb. 27, 2001 -- the full document (or "economic blueprint") "A Blueprint for New Beginnings: Responsible Budget for America's Priorities," was released the next day.

Progress in Priority Areas During the First 180 Days

"Transforming the Federal Role in Education So That No Child Is Left Behind"

Jan. 23, 2001--Proposals sent to Congress.

May 23, 2001--House passes H.R. 1, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001,  by a vote of 384-45.

June 14, 2001--Senate passes its version of the House bill by a vote of 91-8.

July 19, 2001--House-Senate Conference starts work.

Tax Cut
Feb. 8, 2001--Plan sent to Congress.

May 26, 2001--House votes 240-154 (28 Democrats joined a unanimous block of Republicans) and the Senate votes 58-33 (12 Democrats joined all Republicans except McCain (AZ) and Chafee (RI)) to support  the conference report on H.R. 1836, the Economic Growth and Tax Relief  Reconciliation Act of  2001, providing for at least $1.35 trillion in tax cuts over nine years.

June 7, 2001--President Bush signs the tax cut bill.

President Bush charged Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld with conducting up a major review of the U.S. military to determine how to reshape the armed forces for the 21st century, post-Cold War era.  The review ran into some resistance.  For example, on August 2, 2001, 82 members of Congress sent a letter to Rumsfeld expressing "strong opposition to any proposal that would seek to diminish the current levels of Army force structure."  No definitive conclusions had been announced by summer's end. 

July 24,  2001--While visiting U.S. troops in Kosovo, President Bush signs a FY 2001 supplemental appropriations bill that includes $1.9 billion for military pay, benefits and health care.

The administration actively pressed for development of a national missile defense (NMD) system despite concerns about the ABM treaty.

Faith-Based Initiative
Jan. 29, 2001--President Bush signs Executive Order establishing the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives as well as small centers at the Departments of Education, HHS, HUD, Justice and Labor.

Jan. 30, 2001--Proposals sent to Congress.

July 19, 2001--House approves H.R. 7, the Community Solutions Act, by a vote of 233 to 198.  The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee, but its prospects in the Senate appear uncertain.

Jan. 29, 2001--President Bush sends "Offering an Immediate Helping Hand" prescription drug proposal to Congress.  This interim measure would use a voluntary, state-based approach to assist low income seniors with prescription drug costs, while leaving broader Medicare reform for later.   Immediate helping hand did not make much headway, so some months later Bush put forth another proposal:

July 12, 2001--President Bush proposes a national drug discount plan as a first step "to provide immediate help to seniors without destabilizing Medicare's finances."  "Every senior on Medicare can receive a new drug discount card," Bush states.  "It won't cost much, at most a dollar or two a month, and will work like the cards you already have for, say, your groceries."  Bush further proposes "a framework for strengthening and expanding Medicare for the long-term."

Social Security
May 2, 2001--President Bush announced establishment of a bipartisan16-member President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security.  The Commission, co-chaired by former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Richard Parsons, Chief Operating Officer of AOL/Time Warner, is holding a series of public meetings and plans to release a final report in the fall.

Changing the Tone
In his first several weeks in office, President Bush reached out to Democrats, in much the same way as he had done while governor of Texas.
" I'm very serious about sitting down as often as possible with people from both parties to have frank discussions about issues that concern the country." 
--President Bush at meeting with bipartisan members of Congress on Jan. 29, 2001

-In his first week in office (through Jan. 26), President Bush met with 90 members of Congress, including 29 Democrats.

-On Jan. 31, 2001, President Bush met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including some who had walked out of the Jan. 6 Joint Session of Congress that certified his election.

-At a lunch on Jan. 31, 2001, President and Laura Bush presented House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt with a cake and a book for his 60th birthday.

-On the evening of Feb. 1, 2001, President Bush had the Kennedy family over to the White House to watch the movie "Thirteen Days" about the Cuban missile crisis.

-President Bush spoke at the Senate Democratic retreat at the Library of Congress on Feb. 2, 2001 and at the House Democratic retreat in Pennsylvania on Feb. 4, 2001.

"I noticed people referring to this as the "hug a Democrat a day" administration. "--Ari Fleischer, Briefing, Feb. 1, 2001

However, by the 100-day marker politics seemed to be falling into a familiar pattern.

Jan. 29, 2001--First meeting of Cabinet-level energy policy task force headed by Vice President Cheney.  

May 16, 2001--National Energy Policy Development Group report "Reliable, Affordable and Environmentally Sound Energy for America's Future."

Aug. 2, 2001--House passes H.R. 4, the Securing America’s Future Energy Act of 2001, by a margin of 240-189.

Note.  The energy task force was criticized for meeting primarily with energy industry representatives; the names of those who participated in its meetings were kept secret.  Congressional Democrats asked the General Accounting office to investigate.  As the summer recess began it was possible a lawsuit or congressional subpoena might be used to try to obtain the information.


The Economy
As the economy slowed in late 2000 and the first half of 2001, the Bush administration promoted its tax cut as an elixir that would help restore economic growth.  Monetary policy also came into play.  In a June 27, 2001 release, the Federal Reserve noted that "declining profitability and business capital spending, weak expansion of consumption, and slowing growth abroad...continue to weigh on the economy."  Such conditions caused the Fed to lower the discount rate six times in the first half of 2001 (on Jan. 1, 2001 the rate stood at 6 percent; by the end of June 2001 it was down to 3 1/4 percent >).



Feb. 16, 2001--Iraq continued to pose problems, prompting the U.S. to launch airstrikes.

March 31, 2001--U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries II reconnaissance aircraft and Chinese fighter collide in mid-air and the U.S. plane makes an emergency landing on the island of Hainan, China.  The 24-member crew of the EP-3 were released on April 12, 2001.


First Cabinet Meeting 
Jan. 31, 2001--Three members were not present; HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson was in Wisconsin, and Attorney General John Ashcroft and US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick had not yet been confirmed.
First Meeting with Foreign Leader
Feb. 5, 2001--Prime Minister Jean Chretien of Canada.
First Overseas Trip
Feb. 16, 2001--Meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox at Rancho San Cristobal, San Cristobal, Mexico. 
First Full Press Conference
Feb. 22, 2001--Lasted half an hour, including opening statement. 

Brookings' Presidential Appointee Initiative

A Change in Style
Bush attracted markedly less coverage in the early months of his administration than had Clinton:

The Center for Media and Public Affairs reported in April that President Bush received a total of 7 hours and 42 minutes of coverage on the networks' evening newscasts during his first 50 days in office compared with 15 hours and 2 minutes devoted to President Clinton during his first 50 days in 1993. 

The Project for Excellence in Journalism, in its report "The First 100 Days: How Bush Versus Clinton Fared In the Press", found that in Bush's first 60 days in office network television had 43 percent fewer stories and newspapers 38 percent fewer stories than they had had about Clinton in his first 60 days. 


First Month: Some Early Actions
Restoration of the Mexico City Policy (Jan. 22, 2001)
requires nongovernmental organizations to agree as a condition of their receipt of Federal funds that they will neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.