The Lower House has begun discussing President Javier Milei’s massive state reform and economic deregulation proposal known as the “omnibus bill.” The much-awaited session began Wednesday at 10:29 a.m. amid friction between the opposition and ruling coalition La Libertad Avanza (LLA).

Although the bill is expected to pass as a whole, there are sure to be fierce debates over some of its key sections. Despite the moderate opposition’s backing, tension between them and the ruling coalition has been escalating over the past few days. As of Tuesday, there was still no full consensus regarding the privatization of state-owned companies. Its approval is key for the government, along with the legislative delegations for Milei.

UxP and FIT-U are the only two blocs that will reject the bill as a whole, gathering 105 negative votes in total. Although some deputies from other coalitions could still reject it in general, it’s not enough: LLA, UCR, Hacemos, and PRO together have over 130 positive votes, making up more than half of the chamber’s members.

The friction is palpable not only inside the building. Security fences have been set up around Congress, and dozens of military police and federal police patrol cars can be seen in the nearby streets. Several social movements and unions are expected to march to the legislative building in the afternoon.

Inside the chamber, things got off to a rocky start. While Frente de Izquierda de los Trabajadores-Unidad (FIT-U) Myriam Bregman was giving her opening speech, a man standing on the balconies started insulting her. After fellow deputies started calling for him to leave, Menem ordered Congress security to escort him out.

The session is expected to last around 40 hours. Some say it could be even more. Lower House President Martín Menem said there will likely be a recess so that lawmakers can rest, potentially before a first vote is called to pass the bill. If it receives approval as legislation, deputies will discuss each of its 338 articles.

“I am against debates that last over 14 hours at a time,” he said during a press scrum before entering the chamber’s floor, minutes after 10 a.m.

Menem told the Herald that talks with the rest of the blocs are “always cordial” and added that he is expecting the session to be calm. “Many people are watching us.”

On Tuesday, blocs from the so-called “moderate opposition” Unión Cívica Radical (UCR) and Hacemos Coalición Federal said they would be voting for the bill as an entity but would not support some of its articles. If this happens, the bill would pass and then be sent to the Senate, but Menem was cautious. “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” he said in the hall leading to the chamber. Negotiations were still ongoing throughout Wednesday morning.

“It’s very likely that [the government] will get the bill approved as legislation, and that negotiations will go on and sparks will keep flying over certain articles during the day,” deputy Romina Del Plá, from left-wing Frente de Izquierda de los Trabajadores-Unidad (FIT-U), told the Herald before entering Congress.

Things are not entirely calm within LLA either. On Monday, Interior Minister Guillermo Francos met with 16 governors and deputies from the moderate opposition to find common ground on certain reforms. However, the president’s press office rejected these possible changes mere minutes after the meeting ended.

“We don’t understand what the president is doing by breaking up every negotiation they had going on,” UxP deputy Paula Penacca told the Herald. “Milei believes he can do as he pleases.”

“We don’t want to put any obstacles in the path of any government that is just starting, and we want to help Milei, but the question is how,” UxP deputy Pablo Yedlin told the Herald. “Whether it is by passing bills that we think are unconstitutional and bad for Argentines, or by marking a different path.”

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Lower House debates ‘omnibus bill’ in tension-filled session

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31.01.2024

The Lower House has begun discussing President Javier Milei’s massive state reform and economic deregulation proposal known as the “omnibus bill.” The much-awaited session began Wednesday at 10:29 a.m. amid friction between the opposition and ruling coalition La Libertad Avanza (LLA).

Although the bill is expected to pass as a whole, there are sure to be fierce debates over some of its key sections. Despite the moderate opposition’s backing, tension between them and the ruling coalition has been escalating over the past few days. As of Tuesday, there was still no full consensus regarding the privatization of state-owned companies. Its approval is key for the government, along with the legislative delegations for Milei.

UxP and FIT-U are the only two blocs that will reject the bill as a whole, gathering 105 negative votes in total. Although some deputies from other coalitions could still reject it in general, it’s not enough: LLA, UCR, Hacemos, and PRO........

© Buenos Aires Herald


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