French Senate Rebukes Hollande in Symbolic Rejection of Budget

The French Senate delivered a symbolic rebuke to President Francois Hollande, with Communist lawmakers refusing to support his five-year budgetary plan they called too austere.

Communist senators joined former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement opposition party to vote against the law late yesterday. The count was 189 votes against and 152 in favor.

The bill returns to the lower house early next month where it will probably pass. Under French law the National Assembly’s final vote is enough to pass a bill. Hollande’s Socialist Party has an absolute majority in the chamber. Yesterday’s vote marked the second time in less than a month that Communists rebuffed a government bill. They have also criticized the 2013 social-security budget bill to be voted next week.

The Senate may also rebuff the 2013 budget law. Hollande’s 2013 blueprint relies on 20 billion euros ($26 billion) in tax increases, including a levy of 75 percent on incomes over 1 million euros, and eliminating limits on the wealth tax. Hollande aims to reduce spending by 10 billion euros, bringing the deficit to 3 percent of output from 4.5 percent in 2012. The budget predicts growth of 0.8 percent.

“I can see now that (Communist lawmakers) are not in the government’s majority,” Bruno Le Roux, the Socialist Party whip at the National Assembly told France 2 television today. “It’s a serious matter to vote against the budget,” he added.

Socialists have 127 of the Senate’s 347 seats. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Union for a Majority party (UMP) holds 131 seats. Communist and affiliates have 20 senators and the Green party has 12. The minority centrist parties have 30 senators.

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