Thursday, August 13, 2020
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ARGENTINA | 13-05-2020 08:10

Congress online: Lawmaking set to restart with virtual sessions

After trials and tribulations, Senate due to meet online at 2pm local time, with lower house Chamber of Deputies to follow at 6pm.

The Senate will meet remotely for online sessions on Wednesday, working by videoconference for the first time in Argentina's history, as lawmaking gets back underway amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Lawmaking is set to recommence after a number of technical trials and tribulations. Senators are due to meet virtually for a session at around 2pm local time, with lawmakers in the lower house Chamber of Deputies due to follow suit later today, with their own sessions at around 6pm, should everything go to plan.

Both chambers have their own procedures. Blocs in the Senate for example have had to submit an ordered list of speakers in advance. Each session is not expected to go beyond six hours for technical reasons, officials have briefed.

Huge screens have been set up inside the Congress building's respective chambers, with two separate connections deployed for each session – one for speeches and voting and another to register and validate the identity of each legislator. The set-up was successfully tested on Monday, with the presence of 70 of the 72 members from the upper house 'entering' the session.

The session will be chaired by former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who heads the Senate via her role as vice-president of the nation.

'The day after'

The president of the Senate Budget committee, Carlos Caserio, said in an interview that Peronist lawmakers were "already thinking about the day after the pandemic" with a number of bills ready for debate. This legislation will "direct the country" through the crisis, he said, with a peak in Covid-19 infections anticipated in Argentina in the coming weeks.

"It is going to work normally and without problems," said Caserio, in statements to El Destape radio on Tuesday.

"We will try to prevent the economy from falling into a well," said Caserio."[Upon taking office in December] we received a country with a totally imploded economy and that has been compounded by the pandemic."

Senators are set to begin discussing the host of emergency DNU decrees issued by President Alberto Fernández since the coronavirus pandemic began. High up the agenda is debate over the decree that approves state assistance to citizens and businesses worth some 178 billion pesos.

Also on the agenda is a proposal by the ruling Frente de Todos coalition to introduce a so-called 'wealth tax' on Argentina's largest fortunes, a levy that would reach approximately 12,000 individuals.

Lawmakers also want to debate an initiative to ensure all frontline healthcare professionals have the necessary protection and materials to work during the pandemic.

According to reports, representatives in the lower house Chamber of Deputies have agreed on consensus items for debate, to ensure the first session runs smoothly. They will take to their 'virtual' seats at 6pm, with tests on the system beginning as from 1pm.

– TIMES/AFP/TELAM

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