After the turbulence in the Assembly, the health bill in the hands of the Senate

After the turbulence in the Assembly, the health bill in the hands of the Senate

The Senate dominated by the right is preparing to vote on Wednesday at first reading a rewritten version of the bill ratifying the expiry on August 1 of the emergency regimes put in place to fight against the Covid epidemic, abused by the oppositions in the National Assembly.

To the chagrin of the government, the “health watch and security” bill had been amputated by the deputies of its key article on the possible return of a health pass to the borders, thanks to a conjunction of votes of the RN, LR and a majority of the left alliance Nupes.

A first legislative setback for the presidential majority, described as a “night heat stroke” by President Emmanuel Macron, who places the Senate in a position of strength.

“I believe in the wisdom of the senators who, with the government, will be able to restore a text that will allow us to go all the way,” said the Head of State on July 14.

“Out of the question to restore the deleted article as the government had written it”, warned the president of the LR group in the Senate Bruno Retailleau, when Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne appealed to the “spirit of responsibility” of senators .

Senator LR Philippe Bas, rapporteur capped of health texts, took out his pen, to try to find a position of balance.

The senators therefore restored an article 2 on health control at the borders, but “much more limited”.

The new article proposes two distinct devices, the rapporteur preferring to speak of “travel health certificate” to clearly signify the disappearance of the health pass, as it was in force in restaurants or other public places.

The first concerns travelers from foreign countries. In the event of the appearance of a new, particularly dangerous Covid variant, the government could impose the presentation of a negative test on boarding.

A second similar device could apply for trips to overseas communities “in the event of a risk of saturation” of their health system. Corsica is no longer mentioned.

– Text “quite crumbly” –

The senators also made important additions in committee.

The rapporteur therefore wanted to explicitly provide in the text for the repeal of restrictions on freedoms that may have been put in place to combat the COVID-19 epidemic, such as confinement, curfew or health passes.

Above all, the version of the text adopted in committee opens the door to a reintegration of unvaccinated caregivers, to which the National Academy of Medicine again expressed Tuesday “its firm opposition”.

It provides for the obligation to vaccinate caregivers to be suspended as soon as it is no longer justified in view of the evolution of the epidemic or “medical and scientific knowledge”. These personnel would then be “immediately reinstated”.

It remains to be seen how the government will react to the Senate’s proposals. A senior source in the executive, judging these cosmetic changes, comments: “as long as there are no significant operational consequences, why not… You have to be pragmatic”.

According to a source in the majority, it is not possible to “stay on something wobbly” without the article on health protection at the borders. “We must find an elegant way out for politicians”, but “without compromise”, we add.

On the left, the socialist Jean-Pierre Sueur judges the text of the commission “still quite friable”. His group “absolutely wants there to be a text”, but is “more than reluctant” to reintegrate caregivers. The new wording of Article 2 does not completely convince him either.

The text also makes it possible, due to a still fragile epidemic situation, to continue to collect health data on screening tests (SI-DEP system).

Once adopted at first reading by the Senate in session, deputies and senators will try Thursday to agree on a common version. In case of agreement, it will still have to be voted on one last time by the two chambers.

In case of failure, or negative vote of one of the two chambers – which cannot be excluded in the current configuration of the Assembly – the shuttle would continue unless the government throws in the towel.

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