After a week that left 30 hours of debate, hard crossings in the premises, confrontations in the streets, and a project approved “in general”, another intense week begins in Deputies, with a still open end, in which nothing less will be defined than the entire content of the Omnibus Law, which arrived in Congress a little over a month ago and lost two hundred articles along the way.
The Lower House will resume the session this Tuesday from 2 p.m. with the vote in particular on the reform package, but a busy morning is expected in Congress. The blocks linked to governors are still waiting for a signal from the Executive for resources for the provinces and that a new fiscal pact will be discussed. On the other hand, some key chapters of the initiative are at serious risk of falling and others do not directly have the votes of the dialogue opposition, which the ruling party will need yes or yes to approve each article.
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Although there were some doubts among deputies from the different blocks, in the Presidency of Deputies, headed by Martín Menem, they assured last night that, being in the voting stage, it is necessary that there be a starting quorum, that is, that 129 deputies be seated on their benches. It was estimated that the debate would restart with “issues of privilege” that, considering the protests and arrests of protesters and the clashes between deputies, would take a few hours of debate.
Last Friday, with 144 votes in favor, Deputies approved the project that the Executive had sent to Congress, minus the “fiscal chapter” – which included, among other things, an increase in withholdings and the elimination of the retirement mobility formula – , as the Minister of Economy, Luis Caputo, had announced before the debate in the venue.
With 144 votes in favor, Deputies generally approved the Omnibus Law (Photo: NA).
This Tuesday, the ruling party will report the articles that were decided to be deleted after negotiations with opposition blocs and governors in the last week. As indicated in both La Libertad Avanza and the PRO, the UCR and We Make the Federal Coalition, the plan would be to vote “chapter by chapter”, but in the most complex chapters and with greater dissent and requests for changes it will be done by article, or at the same time. fewer item groups.
It was not planned, on the other hand, to allow the presentation of deputies as during the general debate. Instead, one deputy per block would be allowed to speak for three minutes to express dissent with an article or chapter or report the direction of the vote.
“It may happen that UxP requests a motion to vote on everything article by article, or that they want to interrupt the vote every two minutes. In that case, the same majority that voted against sending the project back to committee or that approved in general is asserted, and it continues. But it can be blocked,” said a radical deputy who participates in the conversations with the ruling party.
The degree of agreements reached in the session, or those that can be reached during this Tuesday, will depend – in addition to the level of conflict inside and outside the premises – on how long the particular vote could take. The most optimistic calculations anticipated a closing on Wednesday night, with a possible intermission quarter on Tuesday night (the intermission quarters also served to advance negotiations). Just a provisional calculation.
Miguel Pichetto, the head of the We Make Federal Coalition bloc, speaks in the Chamber of Deputies, during the debate on the Omnibus Law. (Photo: Argentina, January 31, 2024. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian). By: REUTERS
Both spokespersons for the main governors who were elected under the umbrella of JxC or non-K Peronism, as well as deputies who respond to those governors, assured that no signal from the Executive to the leaders had arrived until this Monday night.
“We would have met on the weekend, if it was all or nothing. It was postponed to try to open some dialogue and we are the same as on Friday,” summarized an important member of We Make the Federal Coalition.
PAIS tax, FGS or resources: the fight of the governors
As TN reported last week, even the general approval of the project came to be in doubt at times. Between We Make the Federal Coalition (led by Miguel Pichetto, a member of Córdoba Peronism, the Civic Coalition) and Federal Innovation (legislators from provincial forces), the governors can mobilize around thirty opposition deputies, not counting UxP. That is, enough to bring down a vote or the quorum.
At the impulse, above all, of the Córdoba deputies, these spaces threatened to force the co-participation of the COUNTRY tax – something that the Casa Rosada already warned that it would veto – if the Government does not give some alternative signal that guarantees resources to the provinces.
They even proposed a way out, always waiting for a broader debate in Congress for a fiscal reform: that the flow of funds for those provinces whose provincial funds were not transferred to the Nation, but are harmonized with the Nation's criteria, as in the case of Santa Fe and Córdoba.
Rodrigo De Loredo, head of the UCR block in Deputies (Photo: UCR).
The ruling party already gave in on the privatization chapter: it reduced the number of companies that, if approved, would be eligible for privatization, and also separated them into groups, so that deputies with objections to a particular company important to their province would not be forced to reject all in a closed package.
Although the modification was well received in the UCR and HCF, both groups propose that greater parliamentary control should be included in the privatization process and greater transparency controls. In the case of the radicals there would be freedom of action, but they assured there that the bloc would not be an obstacle for this chapter. Some legislators, however, insisted on narrowing the list of companies and voting one by one, not in packages.
Emergencies and delegated powers
The ruling party intends to declare an emergency in economic, financial, security, tariff, energy and administrative matters, for one year, extendable for another year by decision of Congress. The chapter has the peculiarity that it would be the first to be voted on this Tuesday. The opposition blocs generally understand that it would not be a good political signal for the Government to begin the vote like this.
But there is a lot of resistance among dialogueists regarding the delegation of powers for the reform of the State, which includes allowing the Executive to “centralize, merge, transform the legal typicity, reorganize, dissolve or suppress, totally or partially, bodies or entities.” and “transform, modify, unify or eliminate trusts or trust funds,” important for the provinces.
The PRO bloc in Deputies, led by Cristian RItondo, sat next to La Libertad Avanza in the venue (Photo: NA).
By removing the “fiscal chapter”, the Executive also left out the article that eliminated the retirement mobility formula and allowed the president to define the increases by decree.
The opposition blocs proposed that the current formula be replaced by a monthly adjustment for inflation, against which retirees have been losing considerably. During the vote in particular, the Civic Coalition will propose that this proposal be reconsidered, which could force the other blocks to vote on it.
There is an important chapter for the Government that could end up shipwrecking. The UCR found in the way in which the Government handled last week's protests in front of Congress – which included the arrest of a radical activist – the defining argument to finally vote against the modification of the Penal Code, which includes an increase in penalties, changes in the criteria “resistance to authority” and greater breadth in the concept of “legitimate defense.”
According to parliamentary sources, of the 34 UCR deputies, less than a dozen would accompany, and there would be rejections from at least part of HCF and provincial blocks.
The head of the libertarian bloc in Deputies, Oscar Zago, before the “general” vote on the Omnibus Law. (Photo: Télam / Eliana Obregón)
The official project proposes to repeal part of the Law to Strengthen the Sustainability of Public Debt, which was approved during the last administration, which establishes a maximum limit of debt taking in foreign currency from which it is mandatory for the Executive to go through Congress, something that also generates noise among the dialogue blocks.
Culture and Environment
The Government will not have the votes of the UCR and HCF to approve at least part of the environmental reform (which refers to the protection of glaciers from mining exploitation) and the Culture chapter, which commits funds for the arts or deregulates it. the single price of books.