Deputies fail to reach quorum for public university budgets

Following the mass protest against budget cuts on Tuesday, a Lower House session to discuss them fell through

A session in the Lower House to debate increasing universities’ budgets fell through on Wednesday after most lawmakers failed to attend. The lack of quorum came despite hundreds of thousands of Argentines protesting against budget-slashing on Tuesday.

Of the 129 deputies required to establish a quorum, 124 sat down in the Lower House. The opposition bloc Unión por la Patria had called for the session and was joined by the Por Santa Cruz and the Frente de Izquierda y Trabajadores blocs also attended. Fifteen deputies from the centrist Unión Cívica Radical (UCR) and six from the center-right Hacemos Coalición Federal blocs attended.

However, the ruling party La Libertad Avanza, the right-wing PRO bloc, and most of the UCR and Hacemos blocs failed to attend.

Itai Hagman, a deputy from the UxP bloc, claimed that a significant number from the so-called “moderate” opposition is focusing on the negotiations linked to the new omnibus bill and the fiscal package, expected to be discussed next week. “Therefore, they don’t want to do anything that makes the government uncomfortable,” he told the Herald. “I think they are making a mistake — so far, the evidence shows that every time they wanted to pander to the government, showing a willingness to do something, they only found intransigence.”

Some detractors pointed to the fact that there hadn’t been commission debates prior to Wednesday’s session to agree on the content of bills that reach the house floor. However, UxP Deputy Pablo Carro said the intention was to establish a deadline for the education commission. Carro, who is also a professor at the National University of Córdoba, mentioned two bills he drafted: one to prevent universities from having lower budgets than the previous year (accounting for inflation) and another to eliminate tax exemptions to the biggest tech companies. 

“It seems to me that once again we were not up to the task — or some deputies were not up to the task,” he said. “Yesterday’s demonstration was impressive all over the country.”

Martín Tetaz, a UCR deputy who attended the march but did not go to the session, said that giving a deadline to the commission would be an “exceptional strategy” for the Congress, and that the ruling party has been open to discussing every topic. Tetaz considered that pensions and universities’ budgets will be discussed next week after the government finishes with the omnibus bill.

“On the other side, yesterday’s successful demonstration, so massive and so forceful, laid the foundations for a dialogue,” he said. “To start bullying in the middle of a dialogue that is just beginning is not the best way. The best way now is to enable dialogue and make it possible for the [university] rectors and the government to reach an agreement.”

Milei, who after Tuesday’s march posted an AI-generated picture of a lion drinking a cup of coffee labeled as “lefty tears” on Instagram, wrote a lengthy text on X after the botched session. 

“At no time did the national government insinuate the intention of closing the national universities,” he wrote. He accused those who marched to have done a “purely political act of opposition to the government.” 

The non-profit organization Civil Association for Equality and Justice (ACIJ) stated that higher education suffered from a 72% slash compared to the previous year. Some universities are struggling to pay electricity bills.

LLA deputy Lilia Lemoine said during an interview that the university’s authorities are the ones turning off the electricity. She also stated, without providing any evidence, that students got “extra points” if they went to the march.

Rodrigo De Loredo, a UCR deputy who also marched on Tuesday against the cuts but did not go to the session, explained his absence on the steps of Congress. “Making a political act does not solve the problems,” he said. At that moment, captured on social media, a passing bus driver yelled at him to “give quorum for the budget, you turd.”


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