It is a momentous week in Presidential history: President Bush now ranks behind Thomas Jefferson as serving the longest without exercising President authority to veto Congressional legislation. Although George Will says the magic date was Monday, 20 March, both USA Today and Bloomberg report the mark as today, the 23rd.
The exact date is not important, although some context is in order. The 108th Congress (2003-2004) passed 498 laws; the 98th (1993-1994), 623 laws. During Jefferson's day, it was a different story. First, legislators were part-time. Second, in the 8th Congress (1803-1804), only 153 bills were introduced!
Bush has signed 1,091 bills and has been in office 1,889 days. President Monroe vetoed his first bill on day 1,888, 4 May 1822. Neither Adams nor Jefferson exercised a veto; Garfield is the most recent president not to veto a measure.
In the first fifth (20%) of the nation's history, Congress passed only about 7% of all its laws. Moreover, today's laws are more complex: in 50 years, they grew from an average of 2.5 pages to 19.1. Many run to the thouands of pages (particularly conference budget reports).
Despite having never exercised his veto pen, and enjoying a Congress controlled by his own party, Bush recently trotted out the long-standing executive branch request for line-item veto. The Supreme Court found the line-item veto unconstitutional (6-3) during the Clinton era.
As this chart from zFacts shows, one of the results of that non-working pen is resumption of increased gross national debt. When viewed as a percent of GDP, it shows only two upswings since 1950: 12 years under Reagan-Bush and now five more under Bush 43.