Villarruel calls belated mega-decree Senate debate, sparking Milei’s anger

The government called it a ‘unilateral decision’ made by a sector that intends to advance its own agenda

Argentina's Vice President Victoria Villarruel attends the opening session of the 142nd legislative term, at the National Congress, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 1, 2024. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

After two months of pressure from opposition lawmakers, Senate President Victoria Villarruel has called a special session on Thursday to discuss President Javier Milei’s massive economic deregulation decree. With most senators against it, the so-called “mega-decree” could become one of the few presidential decrees rejected by Congress. The decision, however, has caused a rift between the VP and the president, who criticized the move after it was announced.

On Wednesday evening, rumors were circulating that Villarruel would backtrack on this decision following intense backlash from La Libertad Avanza supporters online. However, a Senate spokesperson told the Herald that the session would be held as planned, with the mega-decree as part of the agenda. 

President Javier Milei’s press office published a communiqué on X (formerly Twitter), a thinly veiled criticism of the vice president, at around 7 p.m.

“[This office] expresses concern about the unilateral decision of some sectors of the political class that intend to advance with their own agenda without prior consultation in order to hinder negotiations and dialogue among the different sectors of the political leadership,” read the communiqué. “The potential rejection of the DNU […] would entail a serious setback in the rights and needs of the Argentine people.”

The communiqué went on to extend the president’s thanks to loyal lawmakers who “don’t fall into the perverse game of those who have deliberately decided to obstruct the development of the nation.”

Milei issued the mega-decree (DNU 70/2023) on December 20, 2023, and its wide-sweeping articles have been in effect since December 29. It overturns hundreds of laws over a wide breadth of issues— including Rental Law, labor standards, and healthcare — and deregulates most of Argentina’s economy. Experts and opposition members have contested it as unconstitutional because it does not comply with the “necessity and urgency” element and goes against the division of powers. 

By law, Milei had to file the DNU in Congress 10 days after it went into effect so a bicameral commission could analyze it before taking it to the chambers’ floor. It should be noted that awmakers can’t modify any of its 366 articles — they can only approve or reject it wholesale. If both chambers vote against it, it would be annulled. 

For the DNU to pass the Senate, it needs 37 votes. However, the ruling coalition La Libertad Avanza only has seven senators in the house and its alliance with right-wing party PRO (six senators) and support from other blocs may not be enough. Meanwhile, 33 senators allied with the opposition coalition Unión por la Patria have confirmed they will reject the decree. 

Smaller blocs and the center-right party Unión Cívica Radical (UCR) are expected to define the result. Although previously allied with PRO in the Juntos por el Cambio coalition, UCR lawmakers have distanced themselves from them and especially from La Libertad Avanza since the change in administration. 

When Congress debated Milei’s flagship proposal known as the “omnibus bill,” most UCR deputies backed it in general but rejected several key articles for the government, while PRO fully supported it. This led to tense infighting within UCR, and the same could happen in the Senate.

The special session starts at 11:00 a.m.: other items on the agenda include investment and international tax evasion prevention agreements.

You may also be interested in: What does Milei’s massive presidential decree actually say?


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