Omnibus bill session postponed as the government scrambles to get support

The Lower House was set to debate Milei’s flagship deregulation proposal on Thursday but delayed proceedings until next week

Congress will not be voting on the government’s state reform proposal, known as the omnibus bill, until at least next week. Although it was initially expected that the Lower House would debate it on Thursday, the session was postponed as negotiations keep going and the ruling coalition’s lawmakers continue hunting for support.

La Libertad Avanza (LLA) got the necessary backing for their final version of the bill to be approved in commissions early Wednesday morning, a key step that allowed it to be debated on the chamber’s floor. However, out of 55 deputies that backed the document, 34 did so partially, meaning they didn’t agree with some points of the bill.

LLA lawmakers have been intensely searching for support over the past two weeks but are still short of deputies willing to fully back the controversial bill. These next few days before the session — which could potentially happen on Tuesday, legislative sources told the Herald — will be crucial for Lower House President Martín Menem and the rest of the LLA deputies as they look for the necessary votes.

A source close to Menem told the Herald that the session was delayed because “it needs preparation” and that “it was better to do it next week instead of rushing it and forcing things.”

Originally, LLA was pushing to have a session last Saturday. However, this fell through, given that they were still negotiating key points with the so-called “moderate” opposition, made up of sectors from PRO, Unión Cívica Radical (UCR) and Hacemos Coalición Federal. This gave way to the release of a new version of the bill that included many modifications that had been agreed upon with this sector of the opposition.

In this new version, 141 articles were removed from the bill, taking it from 664 articles to 523. While the original version eliminated the formula to calculate pensions — favoring instead increases by decree — and proposed giving Milei special legislative powers for two years, the new document establishes that pensions would be indexed to inflation and that the president would be allowed to legislate for one year.

Among other things, it also removes controversial articles on issues such as electoral reform and changes to the mental health law, which will be debated later in the year. It is still unclear if these changes will be enough to garner enough support to pass the bill. More than half of the deputies who backed it in commissions only gave it partial support.

Out of 257 deputies, LLA only has 38. The ruling coalition’s final version of the bill got partial support from lawmakers from PRO (37 deputies), UCR (34), and Hacemos (23). However, many members of those blocs have voiced opposition to Milei and his proposals.

Some deputies from Hacemos even said that LLA changed the document they had signed without notifying them. Oscar Agost Carreño told Futurock radio station that several versions of the document circulated during Monday and Tuesday, sparking confusion, and that “it is unclear which one they are going to take to the chamber’s floor” for voting. He stated that the one Hacemos signed had been discussed and agreed upon with Menem on Monday.

“I won’t vote for export duties or a pensions formula that makes pensioners’ money disappear,” Carreño said. “I also won’t back express privatizations or allowing the Chinese to fish as much as they please in the Argentine sea without any controls.”

Surprisingly, the bill was also backed by Agustín Fernández, a now former member of Peronist Unión por la Patria (UxP), the biggest coalition in Congress. On Wednesday, Fernández and two other fellow UxP deputies from Tucumán left the coalition and formed their own bloc, Independencia. UxP now has 99 deputies, leaving the negative vote count at 104 — UxP and left wing Frente de Izquierda are the only blocs that have confirmed they will completely reject the bill.

In any case, the bill could still pass as a whole entity but face setbacks when the 523 individual articles are discussed — many of them could still be rejected or modified during the session. If approved, the proposal will be addressed in the Senate, but it is not sure that senators will be able to do so before the end of the extraordinary sessions period called by Milei on February 15.


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