September 23, 2014
Kirchnerites to lead consumer bills in Senate
The Congressional debate over amendments to the Competition and Anti-Hoarding laws kicked off yesterday with a surprise last-minute change to the committees reviewing the package of bills and the announcement that a much more high-profile delegation from the Executive branch will be defending the government’s case before a new committee meeting today.
The change may seem bureaucratic but inside the halls of Congress these small changes can have a huge significance as the president of the lead committee determines the agenda for the plenary as well as the the moment at which debate is finalized and a vote is held on the bills.
Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich will be the highest-ranking member of a delegation that will also include Justice Minister Julio Alak, Justice Secretary Julián Alvarez and Trade Secretary Augusto Costa. Members of the so-called G-6 — the heads of the some of the largest business interests in the country, who yesterday jointly rejected the bills — have been invited to attend to give their testimony along with members of consumer associations.
Tension was expected between the senators — key Radical and PRO senators had already voiced their rejection of the bills — but debate in the Salón Azul yesterday hinged not on the content of the bills but rather on a switch to the lead committee of the plenaries, ensuring that the sessions will be presided by ruling Victory Front Senator Marcelo Fuentes instead of Radical Senator Luis Naidenoff.
Up until yesterday Naidenoff was slated to lead the debate as president of the Rights and Guarantees committee but following a request from Fuentes, Vice-President Amado Boudou agreed that it should be led by the Constitutional Affairs committee. Radical, PRO and dissident Peronist senators conceded that the modification was permissible according to Senate rules but questioned both the timing of the change and the merits.
Yesterday’s postponement will not dull a debate which promises to be as loud as the lead-up.
A meeting held at the offices of the Argentine Industrial Union between the heads of six powerful business groups resulted in a unified position, against the modifications to the Anti-Hoarding Law.
The heads of the trade, construction, stock exchange, and banking sectors expressed their unanimous rejection of the measure.
The opposition has taken a similar approach, considering them to be anti-business and that they will be counter-productive.
These criticisms have been dismissed by the government on the grounds that they are based on a misreading of the initiatives and that it in fact weakens some of the most controversial elements such as the authority to arrest business leaders who do not comply with the law while also improving on other areas.
The ruling party has the numbers to push through the votes but has also spoken of the possibility of accepting amendments to the bills.