Update:the opposition finally did not manage to garner the 129 necessary deputies necessary to form quorum and debate the two bills aimed at having the government roll back on this year’s utility hikes. At 12 PM, President of the Lower House Emilio Monzó decided to call off the session, after waiting an hour for the caucuses that intended to introduce the bills to get the required deputies.
Nonetheless, the representatives of these parties are delivering speeches criticizing the government anyway. You can watch the live feed here.
However, the initiatives were destined to fail anyway: as the opposition called for a special session, the bills did not go through the regular legislative process: they were not approved by a special commission before reaching the floor. And therefore, they would need two thirds of the deputies present in the House to be passed. And since the Cambiemos caucus has more than one third of the members of the Chamber, they would have only had to show up and vote against the bills to quash them.
In an attempt to capitalize on the discontent caused by this year’s increases in utility bills – especially in the middle class, affected the most by them as most vulnerable sectors have access to the substantial subsidies granted by the so-called “social tariff” – the opposition called for a special session in the Lower House today at 11 AM, aimed at having the government roll back on them.
The initiative is being spearheaded by the Frente Para la Victoria (FpV) and has the support of the Partido Justicialista (PJ), the Frente Renovador (FR) and the different left-wing parties represented in the Chamber of Deputies. However, there are two different bills that will be discussed. One, introduced by the FpV, would have the prices of utilities go back to January of this year, before the last set of increases.
The deputies representing the PJ – known in the Lower House as the Argentina Federal caucus – and the FR’s will introduce their own bills, which they will roll out in a press conference called for before the session. According to Clarín, its broad strokes propose a “rational increase” in the bills, and at the same time lower their price by reducing the Added Value Tax (IVA) the government charges in them.
However, it is practically impossible any of them end up proving fruitful. Since they called for a special session, the bills did not go through the regular legislative process: they were not approved by a special commission before reaching the floor. And therefore, they would need two thirds of the deputies present in the House to be passed. And since the Cambiemos caucus has more than one third of the members of the Chamber, they only have to show up and vote against the bills to quash them.
The government has already warned it does not intend to roll back on the increases: “we think we are effectively fighting off inflation. We knew these four months [from January until April] were going to be hard, due to the increases there were left, but it was the last effort. What comes is much lighter,” said Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña yesterday. In another conversation with the media yesterday, Peña was asked about a similar bill that former President and current Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced would introduce in the Upper House. He called it an “irresponsible an demagogic attitude.”
However, the Macri administration is also facing resistance in its internal front, as the main representatives of the two smaller members of the Cambiemos Coalition, the Unión Civica Radical (UCR) and the Coalición Civica (CC), criticized the actions taken by the Casa Rosada, overwhelmingly dominated by the PRO.
The first one to do so was the head of the Radicales, Mendoza Governor Alfredo Cornejo. Speaking at an event at the Rotary Club, he mentioned Energy Minister Juan José Aranguren – responsible for implementing utilities increases – and said he “made the government screw up in several occasions.”
True, he could have made reference to Aranguren’s statement from late March, when the minister said in an interview he still had his own money overseas because he didn’t trust the country’s economy enough to bring it back. But considering that, according to La Nación, a group of Radicales intends to present the government with a plan to restructure the utilities increases plan, it did not seem to be the only reason for his discontent with the minister.
And this week, National Deputy and Cambiemos co-founder Elisa “Lilita” Carrió and key ally of President Macri, said yesterday she would introduce a formal request to have Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña present a report regarding the implementation of the increases in utility bills and public transport rates, suggesting an internal rift.
Nonetheless, all indicators suggest the Macri administration is willing to pay the political cost that the decision represents. So today’s session will pursue a political goal, rather than have some real effect.