The Argentine Senate in session. Source: http://www.senado.gov.ar/presidente

The government officially called to extraordinary sessions in Congress today, in order to debate 17 bills before the year ends. The sessions will extend until December 31, meaning lawmakers will have a two-month-long vacation this year, instead of the usual three. Poor them.

Chief among the projects to be debated are the reforms to the labor laws, the tax code, and the pension system. Decree 1014/2017 also includes the call to discuss an initiative to reform the ministry that groups the country’s prosecutors (Ministerio Público Fiscal) and those tasked with defending the people’s rights (Ministerio de la Defensa). Last but definitely not least, the Macri administration also needs to have its budget bill passed, basically to be able to have the state function in 2018.

The decree comes a day after the lawmakers elected in last October’s midterm elections officially took office. Among them is former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who will begin her six-year term in the Upper House.

Unsurprisingly, the former President has already anticipated her intention – and therefore the rest of the Unidad Ciudadana caucus she will lead – of voting against all relevant projects presented by the Macri administration, arguing they go against the interests of the most vulnerable sectors of society.

Photo via The World News
Photo via The World News

However, Fernández de Kirchner’s won’t command too much influence in the senate. She will only lead a caucus of eight people, taking into account that Senator Miguel Ángel Pichetto has already indicated the group of 25 senators who rally behind the Justicialist Party’s flag want nothing to do with her.

The Upper House has already passed the reforms to the pension system, as well as the projects to get provinces to reduce their spending and for all of them to have a cohesive fiscal structure. All the other projects still need to be passed by both chambers.

The first of the mentioned bills was by far the one that caused the most controversy, considering it would reduce the extent to which pensions would increase from 2018 on. Even though they would still beat the inflation rate, they would do so for a lesser margin than with the existing system.

The Macri administration’s intention of having the project approved was put in jeopardy in the past few days after the Civic Coalition (CC), led by Cambiemos co-founder Elisa “Lilita” Carrió, raised concerns about certain aspects of it, requesting they be changed in order to support it. However, Infobae reported today that representatives of the CC guaranteed their support after being assured that retirees’ pensions will increase, beating next year’s inflation rate by five percent next year.

Carrió. Photo via LT 10
Carrió. Photo via LT 10

But despite this victory, the project – which could very well be indicative of the other ones’ fate – still has to clear a key hurdle before President Mauricio Macri can sign off on it: it needs the support of at least 19 non-Cambiemos deputies – assuming the 110 who are will vote in its favor – to go through the Lower House.

In contrast with what happens in the Upper House, deputies tend to prioritize the stance of the party they belong to, rather than the will of the provincial governors. That’s why the Macri administration’s representatives in Congress still have quite some lobbying to do even though senators and governors have approved the initiative. Thought this hectic 2017 would begin to calm down as the year comes to an end? Think again.