No time to pass budget bill, say Senate leaders
A reenacted national budget for at least January is all but certain, according to Senate President Vicente Sotto III.
Senate leaders on Wednesday ruled out any chance of passing the proposed P3.8-trillion national budget for 2019 this month, even if President Rodrigo Duterte were to call a special session of Congress.
The last session day for this year is today.
The joint session on Wednesday to tackle the President’s request to extend martial law in Mindanao for another year has added to the delay in budget hearings in the Senate.
Sotto said there was simply no time to finish plenary debates, incorporate all the amendments proposed by senators on the floor, and reconcile massive differences between the House and Senate versions.
“Even if we are called to a special session next week, we don’t have enough time for amendments and more so for a [bicameral conference committee meeting],” he told reporters.
“At this point, it’s really January with or without a special session,” Sotto said.
Besides, he added, “It will be tough to have a quorum” should a special session be called.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the senators were not inclined to hasten the budget deliberations.
“The consensus in the Senate, both majority and minority, is not to rush the budget,” he said. “The delay is the fault of the House.”
2 weeks’ debate
The House of Representatives transmitted the general appropriations bill to the Senate in late November, leaving the chamber only two weeks to debate the proposed budget.
To complicate the discussions further, Sen. Panfilo Lacson accused the House of making last-minute insertions of pork into the spending bill to give multibillion-peso allocations to the districts of House leaders.
Lacson said the initial consensus was that even if the Senate held sessions up to Christmas, it still would not be able to approve the spending bill by Dec. 31.
Many lawmakers were set to ask questions on the budgets of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Health, Department of National Defense, and the Department of Public Works and Highways, he said.
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