The opposition has vowed to block the president’s megabill aimed at reforming the economy, politics and even some aspects of private life.
Argentina’s lower house of Congress has begun what is expected to be a marathon debate over libertarian President Javier Milei’s mega-bill aimed at reforming the economy, politics and even aspects of private life.
The government scrambled to secure votes for the key “omnibus” reform bill on Wednesday, even as the left-wing opposition vowed to block it.
The bill initially contained 664 articles, but lost nearly half of them during tough negotiations with the opposition, which far outnumbers Milei’s Libertad Avanza party, which holds only 38 of the 257 seats in the lower house of Congress.
The bill is a key plank of Milei’s reform efforts to combat the South American country’s worst economic crisis in decades, with inflation running at more than 200 percent and coffers of the state dry.
It’s the first major test for the president since the self-described “anarchocapitalist” took office in December after a shock election victory in which he campaigned with chainsaws pledging to cut spending and the size of the state.
Milei, 53, faces the challenge of convincing his allies and getting the bill passed. His government removed a controversial budget item from the bill last week to shore up support.
“Today, politicians have the opportunity to begin repairing the damage they have caused to the Argentine people,” Milei’s office said, urging lawmakers to support the bill.
In a sign of the challenge ahead, the main Peronist opposition bloc, the Union por la Patria, which is the largest grouping in the Argentine National Congress, said it would reject the bill, posting a photo with the slogan : “No to the Omnibus”. invoice” on X.
“We reject the Omnibus bill because it adds fuel to Milei’s chainsaw and harms the daily lives of Argentines,” wrote Peronist politician and former Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero, referring to his austerity plans aimed at closing a deep budget deficit.
Milei began his term by devaluing the peso by more than 50 percent, cutting state subsidies for fuel and transportation, halving the number of ministries, and removing hundreds of rules in order to deregulate the economy.
Its vast program of reforms affects all areas of public and private life, from privatizations to cultural issues, including the penal code and divorce, to the status of football clubs.
On Wednesday, in front of Parliament, hundreds of demonstrators gathered to express their dissatisfaction with the reform project, the AFP news agency reported.
Moderate opposition MPs warned they would seek to make further changes to the bill, particularly on the sensitive issue of delegating special powers to the executive in times of economic emergency, as well as on the scope and extent of privatizations.
If the law is approved by the Lower House – a debate that will likely continue beyond Wednesday – it would move to the Senate next week.