The government is sharpening its weapons as it approaches consideration of the pension reform bill. The text, presented to the National Assembly on January 30, promises many hours of heated debate. Fearing a parliamentary stalemate, the government opted for an unprecedented legislative mechanism that resulted in the application of Article 47-1 of the Constitution. What does it include? And what are the political risks of using it? We sum up.
As has been mentioned for several months now, the pension reform is part of the Social Security Financing Amendment Bill (PLFSS). “We chose this vehicle because it is a natural vehicle,” the prime minister justified on Monday. “It is also a type of bill that is subject to a certain set of rules by the constitution, which can allow the removal of obstacles, blockages,” she continued, while the deputies of recalcitrant France for a while mentioned the possibility of submitting thousands of amendments.
The executive may fear a repeat of the 2020 episode when it examines its previous pension reform bill, in which the opposition pushed more than 40,000 amendments to the National Assembly before resorting to section 49.3. Since the pension reform is part of the PLFSSR this time around, the government can still use 49.3 – its use is not limited to financial law.
But above all, the procedure chosen by Matignon will automatically lead to the application of another article of the Constitution, 47-1. “Every time a bill is voted on for welfare funding, 47-1 applies. Unlike 49.3, you cannot decide whether to activate it or not,” explains Jean-Philippe Derosier, lawyer and constitutional lawyer.
Not surprisingly, this provision will limit the duration of the debate. According to the article, parliament can discuss the text within a maximum of 50 days. “If the National Assembly does not decide on the first reading within twenty days after the introduction of the bill, the government takes the decision of the Senate, which must make a decision within fifteen days,” the Constitution clarifies.
In other words, if the debate at the Palais Bourbon drags on, Article 47-1 will end discussions without the need for a vote, and the text will be submitted to the Senate in 20 days. Then the Luxembourg Palace must, in turn, hold a debate within 15 days. If the senators struggle to reach an agreement, the text will finally be presented to a joint committee (CMP) of 7 MPs and 7 senators who will try to get the final say. Once an agreement is reached, the bill prepared by the CMP will be voted on a second reading in the Assembly, counting on the support of the Republicans.
By using this legislative tool, the government will reduce hurdles, but still face some risks. First, stir up the ire of the opposition, even the streets, by reducing the debate. “The government is sending a message that is not positive either for the parliament it is holding back or for public opinion to which it seems to be speaking. no matter how important this reform is, we will carry it out as soon as possible ”, emphasizes Jean-Philippe Derosier.
On the other hand, the government may still face “legal uncertainty,” the constitutionalist believes. “This apparatus was not designed to carry out serious reforms. The goal of the PLFSS is to change the Social Security budget during the year. Therefore, the deadlines are extremely compressed, hence the existence of 47-1. Here we are in the case of a corrective PLFSS, but there is really no urgency,” he explains.
An observation shared by his colleague, Benjamin Morel “You can always imagine that this reform is very urgent, but if it is not voted for in March or July, it will not change the overall balance of the pension system,” the public law specialist insists.
Finally, a financial text, such as a Social Security Funding Bill, should logically refer to financial provisions. “Obviously we can’t fit everything and everyone into PLFSS,” insists Jean-Philippe Derosier. “Some items [l’index des seniors ou les critères de pénibilités par exemple] may not have a financial aspect and thus be condemned by the Constitutional Council. “A hypothesis that was itself mentioned by the president of the institution, Laurent Fabius, according to the Canard Enchaîné.