Argentina’s Lower House approves Milei’s revised omnibus bill and fiscal reforms

If it also makes it through the Senate, the bill will give the president the power to legislate on administrative, economic, financial, and energy-related issues for a year

Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies approved a shortened version of Milei’s omnibus bill early on Tuesday morning and approved the individual chapters during the day. Lawmakers have also approved a fiscal reform package. The Herald reported from Congress — here’s all the action, as it happened.

6:15 p.m.

At around 5:20 p.m. deputies approved the final segments of the fiscal reform bill.

This included the abolition of a tax category for low-income self-employed workers. Known as the monotributo social, it allows them to declare their work and provides health coverage in exchange for a small monthly payment. 

“Eliminating this tax system does not mean great savings for the state,” said UCR deputy Esteban Paulón during the debate. He added that it should be maintained because “it gives a minimum level of dignity to thousands of Argentines.”

“The monotributo social is the first step towards formal work for poor people,” said Unión por la Patria deputy Daniel Arroyo. “By overturning it, we are increasing informality.” He added that these workers would not be able to afford the higher fees of the normal monotributo.

“This is a huge setback,” Unión por la Patria’s Julia Strada told the Herald, referring to the bill as a whole. “We are talking about losing labor rights, more vulnerability in everyday life, but also a smaller state, with less leverage to control prices, to get tax money. It’s a very bad law for Argentina. We now have to work so that it isn’t approved in the Senate.”

Asked by the Herald about the omnibus bill and fiscal package, La Libertad Avanza deputy Álvaro Martínez described them as “very good laws” and said that if they are approved in the Senate, Milei will have “all the tools he needs” to govern.

4:04 p.m.

A 2023 pension moratorium allowing people to access a state pension by paying for missing years of social security contributions has been eliminated. If the law is approved in the Senate, people who lose this benefit will instead receive a form of welfare payment for older adults, which is worth 80% of the minimum state pension. 

“This article is misogynist, because those most affected by this are women,” said Unión por la Patria deputy Gisela Marziotta. “If approved, eight out of 10 Argentines won’t be able to retire,” added Frente de Izquierda’s Myriam Bregman.

All the bill’s chapters have now been approved in voting. Only minor modifications were made to the text. The pensions chapter garnered the least support with 125 votes in favor and 113 against. The rest consistently had at least 134 positive votes. The only modification was the addition of a chapter that would establish taxes for the tobacco industry.

After over 24 hours of omnibus bill debate, Rodrigo de Loredo, head of the UCR bloc, told the Herald he was “very happy” with the results of the voting.

Unión por la Patria’s Leopoldo Moreau told the Herald: “This bill package will make the rich richer, the poor poorer, and tears us away from our sovereignty.”

He expressed particular concern over the RIGI. “[Foreign companies] could not only appropriate our natural resources, but also destroy Argentine industry, and leave us subject to foreign courts, like what happened with YPF. There’s no coming back from that.”

1.30 p.m.

Deputies approved a stimulus law called Incentive Framework for Large Investments (RIGI, by its Spanish initials). The goal of the legislation is to grant tax and fiscal benefits to companies that want to import and invest over US$200 million in Argentina. They would be exempt from paying national and provincial taxes and allowed to import goods without paying fees.

“This would create disloyal competition with preexisting industries,” metal industry leader Elio Del Re warned on Sunday.

If the Senate endorses RIGI, the proposal would also mandate that any preexisting laws opposing it be declared null. Six Unión por la Patria deputies voted for its creation.

11.25 a.m.

The bill’s labor reform has been approved. It includes an extension of the probation period from three to six months, allowing the smallest companies to extend it up to a year. It also changes paid maternity leave, allowing pregnant women to work up to 10 days before giving birth. Another chapter eliminates sanctions against employers that fail to appropriately register their employees.

“The proposed reform is absolutely regressive,” deputy and banker workers union leader Sergio Palazzo said, adding that it goes against the constitution and international agreements Argentina has signed. “There isn’t a single article that favors workers,” he said, citing that the reform allows employers to have “up to five unregistered employees” and that it enables “discriminatory layoffs.”

10.35 a.m.

Deputies approved the first chapter of the bill, which establishes an emergency on administrative, economic, financial, and energy-related issues and grants Milei legislative powers over these topics for one year. The first iteration of the bill proposed that an emergency be declared in 11 areas, but the scope was reduced to four in the current bill.

The section allowing the president to close or restructure public organizations has also been passed. Fourteen public institutions are exempted from closure, including Argentina’s top publicly-funded research institute, Conicet, cinema institute INCAA, food and drug regulator Anmat; and communications regulator Enacom. However, organizations not listed among the specific exemptions include National Genetic Database and the institute against discrimination, INADI.

The privatization of public companies was also voted through. This includes the total privatization of Aerolíneas Argentinas, Energía Argentina, Radio y Televisión Argentina and Intercargo. It also sets up five more public companies for privatization or concession, including utility AySA and Argentina’s national mail service. Nucleoeléctrica Argentina and Yacimientos Carboníferos Río Turbio could be put up for partial privatization.

Lower House passes Milei’s omnibus bill

The Chamber of Deputies approved a pared-down version of President Javier Milei’s state reform proposal known as “omnibus bill” after 20 hours of non-stop debate. If the bill passes through the Senate, it would give Milei the power to legislate on administrative, economic, financial, and energy-related issues for a year and open the door to privatizing state-owned companies like Aerolíneas Argentinas.

The bill passed as a general item with 142 votes, while 106 deputies voted against it and five abstained. Lawmakers will now begin voting on the 31 individual chapters of the bill. Certain articles — like the one that would allow the president to close down public organizations — might also be voted on individually. 

All the present members of ruling coalition La Libertad Avanza (37 deputies) and its main ally, right-wing PRO (36), voted for the bill. The majority of center-right blocs, Hacemos Coalición Federal (HCF, 18) and Unión Cívica Radical (UCR, 30), also approved it.

Four UCR deputies and one HCF deputy abstained. Mónica Frade, the HCF deputy, is a member of the Coalición Cívica (CC) party, which announced the split of its six deputies from HCF over disagreements regarding the labor reform. The other five CC deputies voted for the bill.

Peronist coalition Unión por la Patria (98 deputies present), left-wing Frente de Izquierda (5), as well as socialist deputies Mónica Fein and Esteban Paulón and Peronist Natalia De la Sota voted against it.

A fiscal reform bill, which was originally part of the omnibus bill and was turned into a separate item, was discussed and approved during the session.

The original omnibus bill was debated in the summer but sent back to commissions over a lack of support for some articles after four days of debates. It originally had 664 articles and was reduced to 232. Ruling coalition La Libertad Avanza compromised on several central aspects to ensure backing.

It aims to modify or overturn dozens of existing laws and create new norms, changing the state’s structure and deregulating broad swathes of the economy, including the oil and gas sector. It also lays the groundwork for the privatization of nine public companies.


All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald