Budget: 49.3 on the table
Approval by the Council of Ministers, limited deadlines, possibilities for amendment: Article 49.3 of the Constitution, to be activated in the coming days by Élisabeth Borne on the first part of the 2023 budget, is on everyone’s lips.
This instrument of the Basic Law allows the Prime Minister to assert the government’s responsibility before the National Assembly for the adoption of a legal text without a vote.
On Wednesday morning, the Council of Ministers authorized the government to activate the article “if the situation should require its use,” said government spokesman Olivier Véran.
The Prime Minister can now decide on the appropriateness of the timing of its triggering, although “that doesn’t mean we intend to use it and it doesn’t mean we will use it, but it does mean that ‘we anticipate that’.” Situation that would force us to resort to it to avoid depriving France of a budget,” specified Mr Véran.
Using it for the budget could mean “a return to its original philosophy,” allowing the executive to remedy the lack of an absolute majority in its favor, according to a Macronist official.
Article 49(3) has “gradually turned into a multi-purpose weapon given to Prime Ministers who have abused the opportunities afforded them,” noted expert Guy Carcassonne in his book The Constitution.
Thus, in the case of “majority impatience”, it could be used to shorten the debates, as in his last intervention by Édouard Philippe to have the pension reform project that went before the Assembly in February 2020 approved, with more than 40,000 amendments in the discussion.
As of the announcement of 49.3 by Élisabeth Borne at the Assembly podium, likely late this week or early next week, the revenue portion of the bill will be deemed passed on first reading without a vote, unless it is a motion of no confidence, submitted within 24 hours will be accepted.
– “A la carte” text –
The motions are debated no earlier than 48 hours after they are submitted, and if they are approved by an absolute majority of MPs, the government would have to resign.
The hypothesis is unlikely as the central LR group had no plan to approve it and refused “to get in touch with people who are speculating about the country’s collapse”, according to its boss Olivier Marleix.
Another issue will be the text tabled on 49.3: the government can indeed add amendments to its original bill, “already discussed or not, already voted or not,” explains one budget actor, saying it’s “a bit à la carte”. .
In this way, proposals from both the opposition and the majority could be retained. “There will be a big negotiation” of some with the government, he predicts.
Article 49.3 can only be used on a draft budget and only on one other type of text during Parliament session. However, the Prime Minister can use it in each of the successive readings of the text chosen before the Assembly.
It cannot be waved in front of the Senate, which does not have the power to overthrow the government. In this case, the right-dominated Upper House can accept or reject the draft budget, which will be submitted to the National Assembly for rereading and then for the final reading.
Under the Fifth Republic, only one motion of no confidence in Georges Pompidou’s government was passed in 1962. As a result, General de Gaulle dissolved the assembly and the subsequent general election ended in a major victory for his supporters.
49.3 often represents a government’s admission of its inability to pass crucial texts. A minority in the congregation, Michel Rocard (1988-1991), had used it often.
Manuel Valls used it three times in 2015 to pass his economy minister Emmanuel Macron’s growth law… very reluctantly at the time.
He then used them again three times in 2016 to pass Myriam El Khomri’s labor bill, prompting 56 majority MPs to try and unsuccessfully to pass an unprecedented motion of no confidence.
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