Argentina’s lower house debate resumes ahead of senate vote

FILE PHOTO: A man shields himself from the sun during a heatwave as lawmakers debate on Argentina's President Javier Milei's economic reform bill, known as the 'omnibus bill', outside the National Congress, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, February 2, 2024. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian/File Photo © Thomson Reuters

By Walter Bianchi and Lucinda Elliott

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Lower-house lawmakers in Argentina on Tuesday will resume voting on individual articles of libertarian President Javier Milei’s controversial reform bill, which received general approval late last week – paving the way for a decisive vote in the Senate.

The bill, whose provisions range from the privatization of state entities to the extension of some executive powers, is considered central to Milei’s reform push to tackle the South American country’s worst economic crisis in decades, with inflation over 200% and dwindling state coffers.

Argentina’s lower chamber of deputies on Friday voted to approve the president’s package overall, following days of debate, by 144 votes to 109.

Investors will be eyeing any significant amendments or changes to the individual articles that may further water down the proposed reforms.

On Tuesday, nine points of contention that the opposition object to are due to be discussed, on issues including security and state reform. Once consensus is reached, the bill moves to the upper house, where the ruling party holds only seven seats.

Milei’s La Libertad Avanza party also holds a small number of seats in the 257-seat lower house, but was still able to garner enough support from like-minded allies, including the main center-right Juntos por el Cambio coalition of parties, to advance his agenda.

Earlier on Tuesday, the libertarian leader arrived in Israel as part of an overseas tour. He is scheduled to hold talks on Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who Milei has strongly backed in his war on the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Source: Reporting by Walter Bianchi in Buenos Aires and Lucinda Elliott in Montevideo; editing by Jonathan Oatis