As the examination of the 2024 budget begins this Tuesday at the Assembly, members already know the ending of the movie: the government’s use of Article 49.3 of the Constitution to ensure the adoption of this highly political text, due to lack of an absolute majority.
Are the deputies engaging in weeks of debates for nothing? Not exactly, for the most combative ones: “No, we don’t have control. Should we resign immediately? I don’t think so,” says Socialist Christine Pirès-Beaune.
The expert on public funds plans to “put pressure” on the ministers’ bench, who will have the power to directly sort through the amendments. “Let them take responsibility for their choices in front of the French people and face the consequences,” she threatens, armed with about fifty amendments filed in her name.
Quickly and forcefully draw
Furthermore, if the motivation of parliamentarians is measured by the number of their proposals, the 2024 vintage promises to be exceptional with nearly 3000 amendments submitted in committee on state revenues alone (compared to 1500 in 2022 and a large thousand in 2021).
“We have lost some influence because certain debates will not take place in the hemicycle. This is why there are a large number of amendments in committee,” explained Véronique Louwagie, a key member of the finance laws for Les Républicains and author of 90 amendments.
She believes that many colleagues who sit on other committees rushed to submit amendments before the plenary session, fearing that the 49.3 would be triggered before their discussion.
Choisir ses combats
Due to tight deadlines, the budget review requires a combination of habit and expertise.
Like Christine Pirès-Beaune, Véronique Louwagie tells POLITICO that she has “chosen her battles” in order to have a chance to influence, at least marginally, the final outcome. According to her, “you have to act as soon as you feel that the government is being shaken,” even if it means gathering “heterogeneous majorities,” as was done with MaPrimeRénov’ last year.
In the absence of being able to fully exercise their prerogatives, the deputies plan to back the government into a corner.
In this context, the executive is aware that the chosen timing for triggering the 49.3 will be important – in 2022, the vote for an increase in dividend taxes caused turmoil. “It’s difficult democratically to explain that a measure was not retained when it was voted by the National Assembly,” admits a member of the majority.
Try the draft selection.
Last year, the government still approved around a hundred amendments after the debates, some of which were more decorative than others. Bruno Le Maire hopes that the examination of the 2024 budget will lead to “an additional one billion euros in savings” and is calling upon the good ideas of members of the majority.
According to Louis Marguerite, one thing is certain: there will not be any amendments that substantially change the budgetary trajectory. Despite the constraint of Article 49.3, the Renaissance deputy believes that he and his colleagues can “add a second layer” to the budget bill, under two conditions: “not coming with a list of forty races” and “being in touch with the minister, but also with his cabinet”.
Of course, holding a leadership position can help one to be heard. Jean-Marc Zulesi (Renaissance), president of the sustainable development committee, for example, will contribute to the debate with a variety of measures regarding aviation taxation and the conversion of thermal engines, while closely monitoring the upcoming contribution on highway and airport concessions.
Their comrade from the majority, David Amiel, persuades himself that “if there is a work of persuasion to be done with the government, what we do in Parliament is very important”. He mentions housing and ecology as themes on which the deputies “can succeed” in changing the game.
Some not-so-de-monetized members of parliament.
When asked by POLITICO, Thomas Cazenave states that he wants to work with parliamentarians, including on drafting certain proposals. “I want them to leave with amendments that are important to them,” says the Minister Delegate for Public Accounts, who was not yet in charge during the previous budget.
Another proof that parliamentary debate is not to be discarded, several interest representatives have explained to us why they continue to lobby the legislative power.
A lobbyist in the transportation industry points out that the year is not solely defined by budgetary texts: “The government does not want to completely humiliate Parliament, as they need a majority for other texts.” Apart from the state and social security budgets, the government can only use article 49.3 once per parliamentary session on another text.
Another person, who works in the energy sector, explains that they continue to spontaneously approach parliamentarians about the budget in order to “not lose control”. Plain and simple.
Sarah Paillou contributed to this article.