Milei says he’ll launch a referendum if Congress rejects his mega-decree

The administration has not filed the DNU for Congress to debate. Argentine presidents do not have the power to call for binding plebiscites

President Javier Milei threatened to launch a referendum if Congress rejects his mega-decree that reforms or annulls hundreds of laws. The president also accused lawmakers of delaying discussions, although his administration has yet to officially file the decree for them to happen.

“Congresspeople are delaying addressing the DNU because they are looking to get bribed” by negotiating their vote, Milei said Tuesday during an interview with La Nación+ news channel. He also demanded lawmakers to explain why they are “against something that benefits people.”

Last week, Milei issued a 366-article presidential decree of “necessity and urgency” — known as DNU in Spanish — massively deregulating Argentina’s economy by eliminating consumer protection policies, allowing foreigners to buy large pieces of land, and overturning laws that protect workers. The move sparked nationwide protests, with multiple spontaneous cacerolazos and organized demonstrations — the CGT will march later on Wednesday in a bid to reject the mega-decree via judiciary means.

In Argentina, presidents can only launch non-binding referendums or plebiscites for citizens to express their opinion on certain matters.

Only Congress can present bills to launch binding referendums. Therefore, if lawmakers were to reject his massive decree, Milei would still need their support to call for a compulsory plebiscite and make his reforms effective.

Extraordinary waiting session

By law, the executive power must alert Congress within the next 10 days after a DNU is published in Argentina’s Official Bulletin. A special commission with members of both chambers then has to analyze its language and vote on whether it’s valid. Milei has time until January 5 — however, he hasn’t done it yet.

The Senate and the Chamber of Deputies then have to vote to approve the decree or not. Both chambers must reject a decree for it to be annulled. 

The special commission with members of the lower and upper house that should first analyze the DNU has not been set up yet. Vice President Victoria Villarruel — current head of the Senate — and Chamber of Deputies President Martín Menem are in charge of this.

Congress began extraordinary sessions called by Milei on Tuesday, and they will last until January 31, before the ordinary period starts on March 1st.

A large bill package known as the “omnibus bill” designed by the president’s team is also expected to be filed soon in Congress. It includes the revision of a tax for high-income workers, sweeping state reforms and the modification of the electoral system to install a single-paper ballot. These are all changes he couldn’t do by decree, since DNUs are explicitly banned for criminal, tax, and electoral issues, as well as changes to the framework for political parties.

The first day of extraordinary sessions saw some lawmakers file bills while others held meetings, waiting for the bill package and the DNU to be filed. On Thursday, they will create the appropriate commissions that will analyze the bills that are meant to be discussed during this period.

Deputies from the Unión Cívica Radical party filed a bill in the Lower House on Wednesday asking Milei to replace the DNU with one or more regular legislative proposals so the changes can be discussed and voted on in Congress normally.

“We understand the need to make necessary reforms to improve the reality of our country which is why we propose that Congress be the place where they are first debated and then approved,” said Deputy Roxana Reyes in a communiqué.


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