Insults, shouting, fist fights.
Despite hours of tension, the bill reforming pensions has made it out of the committee and is on track for a vote on the floor as soon as tomorrow.
Tensions came to a head several times with lawmakers trading insults and angry accusations about the state of the country’s pension system. With multiple interruptions, Cambiemos and a handful of lawmakers in the Argentina Federal caucus – which is made up of Peronists who have distanced themselves from the Kirchnerite Victory Front – and was able to secure 40 signatures in order for the bill to be ready for a vote on the floor. The bill already has Senate approval.
Signaling their opposition was the Victory Front, Sergio Massa’s Renewal Front and Evolución, the cacucus that is lead by former Argentine ambassador to the United States Martín Lousteau. There is uncertainty about what the Bloque Justicialista may do on the floor for a vote. Only one Justicialista caucus member attended the meeting yesterday, lending his support to the bill.
The debate is part of the agenda that the government set out for Congress during the extraordinary sessions that are taking place this month. Among these is the pension bill, which 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 by a lower margin than with the existing system.
The Macri administration’s intention of having the bill 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, 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.
Tension peaked during Labour Minister Jorge Triaca’s appearance at the debate, with what appeared like members of the public getting into a shoving match with security officials. Victory Front caucus chair Agustín Rossi dramatically intervened to appeal for calm. The committee meeting had been attended by associations representing pensioners as well as unions.
Despite the win for Cambiemos yesterday, a positive vote on the floor is by no means guaranteed. La Nación has reported that Cambiemos officals are concerned about the possibility of promised votes not coming through at crunch time.