Monday, May 27, 2024

ARGENTINA | 02-05-2024 18:09

Attention turns to upper house as senators await omnibus bill

La Libertad Avanza begins plotting path of Javier Milei’s omnibus bill and accompanying fiscal package through upper chamber.

Argentina’s upper house of Congress is awaiting the arrival of President Javier Milei’s ‘omnibus’ bill and accompanying fiscal measures as the government seeks swift approval for its sweeping reform package.

Approval of the bills, which were successfully shepherded through the lower house Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday, looks to be more of a challenge in the Senate, where La Libertad Avanza remains firmly in the minority. 

The opposition Unión por la Patria caucus has 33 senators, meaning it would only require four more senators’ backing to ensure a majority in the 72-seat chamber. 

The Casa Rosada wants the bills passed in the next three weeks, prior to the signing of President Milei’s lauded ‘Pacto de 25 de Mayo,’ an agreement detailing economic management rules, which is scheduled to take place in Córdoba on the aforementioned date.

Milei’s party has been working on a group of inland senators, particularly those from Santa Cruz Province, to tip the balance in its favour and there are signs its advances are working, local media reported this week. 

As voting continued in the lower house on Tuesday, Villarruel met with presidential chief-of-staff Karina Milei to discuss tactics over lunch. 

The vice-president, who did not take part in negotiations with caucuses during the omnibus bill’s first reading, is expected to play a bigger part in talks this time around. Villarruel will need to skillfully bring together the federal caucuses that answer directly to provincial governors.

Sources close to Villarruel have briefed that committee stage discussions will start next Tuesday. If a majority opinion is obtained next week, the bills could arrive on the Senate floor as early as Thursday, May 16. 

Should the issue be muddied, the other alternative would be a week later, on May 23, though the timeframe would be tight if voting is to take place before the signing of Milei’s grant pact. 

Cabinet Chief Nicolás Posse headed a Cabinet meeting on Thursday without Milei as talks over securing support in the Senate stepped up. 

UCR Senator Flavio Fama predicts that the laws will pass through the upper chamber, though he suggested that restoration of income tax brackets would be a “difficult issue.”

“We have already had a lot of discussion … this should have been resolved long ago. These are tools needed by the government, which is proposing a paradigm shift,” said the representative for Catamarca.

“We are waiting for the definitive text and today we are going to start working within the caucus,” he said.

Entre Ríos Province Governor Rogelio Frigerio also gave his backing to the bills, saying they would provide “certainty” for investors. 

“We need to generate more certainty and the sanction of the ‘Ley de Bases’ and the fiscal package go in that direction. Of course, there is still a long way to go, but these are advances,” Frigerio said. 

“It is important that the Senate ratifies the approval of the Chamber of Deputies and gives the President the tools to be able to govern and manage,” he added.


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