The government is sharpening its weapons as it approaches the examination of the pension reform bill. The text, presented to the National Assembly from January 30, promises hours of long and heated debate. Fearing a parliamentary stalemate, the government chose an unprecedented legislative vehicle, leading to the application of article 47-1 of the Constitution. What does it involve? And what political risks can its use entail? We take stock.
Why this article?
As mentioned for months, the pension reform is part of a bill for the amending financing of social security (PLFSS). “We chose this vehicle because it is the natural vehicle”, justified the Prime Minister on Monday. “It is also a type of bill which is subject by the Constitution to a certain number of rules which can make it possible to remove the obstructions, the blockages”, she continued, while the deputies of the insubordinate France had for a while mentioned the possibility of presenting thousands of amendments.
The executive could fear reliving the episode of 2020, when examining its previous pension reform project where more than 40,000 amendments had been tabled by the opposition in the National Assembly, before recourse to the section 49.3. As the pension reform is part of a PLFSSR this time, the government can still use 49.3 – its use is not limited to finance laws.
But above all, the procedure chosen by Matignon will automatically lead to the application of another article of the Constitution, 47-1. “Each time a law relating to the financing of social security is voted, 47-1 applies. Unlike 49.3, you cannot decide to activate it or not to activate it, ”explains Jean-Philippe Derosier, jurist and specialist in constitutional law.
Unsurprisingly, this provision will restrict the length of the debates. According to the article, the Parliament can debate the text within 50 days maximum. “If the National Assembly has not decided on the first reading within twenty days after the filing of a bill, the government seizes the Senate which must rule within fifteen days”, specifies the Constitution.
In other words, if the debates drag on at the Palais-Bourbon, article 47-1 would put an end to the discussions without the need for a vote and the text would go to the Senate after 20 days. Then, the Luxembourg Palace should in turn debate within 15 days. If the senators are struggling to agree, the text will finally be submitted to a joint committee (CMP) composed of 7 deputies and 7 senators who would try to get the last word. Once the agreement has been reached, the bill resulting from the CMP would be voted on at second reading in the Assembly, counting on the support of the Republicans.
By using this legislative vehicle, the government would reduce the obstruction, but still face some risks. The first being to rekindle the anger of the opposition, even of the street, by reducing the scope of the debates. “The government sends a message which is neither positive towards the Parliament which it constrains, nor towards the public opinion to which it seems to say whatever the importance of this reform, we will pass it as soon as possible », stresses Jean-Philippe Derosier.
On the other hand, the government could still come up against “legal uncertainty”, according to the constitutionalist. “This device was not designed to carry out major reforms. The purpose of a PLFSS is to modify the Social Security budget during the year. The deadlines are therefore extremely tight, hence the existence of 47-1. Here we are in the case of a corrective PLFSS, but there is not really any urgency,” he explains.
An observation shared by his colleague, Benjamin Morel “We can always imagine that this reform is very urgent, but if it is not voted on in March or July, it will not change the general balance of the pension system”, insists the specialist in public Law.
Finally, a financial text such as the social security financing bill must logically relate to financial provisions. “We obviously cannot put everything and anything in a PLFSS”, insists Jean-Philippe Derosier. “Some items [l’index des seniors ou les critères de pénibilités par exemple] could have no financial aspect and thus be censored by the Constitutional Council. “A hypothesis which had itself been mentioned by the president of the institution, Laurent Fabius, according to the Canard Enchaîné.