Pension reform: LR seeks to avoid the trap set by Macron

It is never pleasant to agree with your adversary. This annoying feeling has inhabited the Republicans (LR) since the installation of the new National Assembly. After having voted on the three texts of the summer session, here is the right struggling with a new puzzle: the pension reform prepared by the executive, in line with its ideological DNA. Being a “useful opponent”: from the stated objective of LR, are we still going to retain only the epithet?

The content of the text is not fixed, but its philosophy is hardly in doubt: the French will have to work more. During the presidential election, Emmanuel Macron spoke out in favor of raising the legal age of departure. Another possibility: increase the contribution period.

The right can only applaud. It makes the postponement of the opening of pension rights a political marker. The Republicans’ project for 2022, like that of its candidate Valérie Pécresse, provided for a postponement to 65 of the starting age. “We are invariable on the merits, asserts the president of LR Annie Genevard. If we do not want to increase contributions and lower pensions, we must touch on the contribution period and adopt an age measure.” “Macron knows that the right has been carrying this message for years, it’s a Machiavellian trap”, mocks the deputy of Aisne Julien Dive, aware that the executive needs the support of LR for this reform.

Its methods of adoption are not arbitrated. A trail emerges. The executive does not rule out taking parametric measures through an amendment to the Social Security Financing Bill (PLFSS), examined this fall in Parliament. Guarantee of speed, the maneuver is an institutional artifice. The use of 49.3 – an indispensable tool under a relative majority – is limited to one ordinary text per parliamentary session. But this rule does not apply to budgetary texts, such as the finance law or the PLFSS. Might as well keep a joker under your elbow.

This technique, which is debated within Renaissance, would put LR face to face with its responsibilities. The right-wing senatorial majority has been adopting an amendment to the PLFSS for three years providing for a postponement of the starting age to 63 or 64 years. This vote comes back to him today in the face. “Either we vote by being in agreement with what we have been proposing for years. Either we become schizophrenic and we deny ourselves”, summarizes a senator. The right, however, is not comfortable with such a method. The Senate amendments had symbolic value. They were not voted to enter into force but to recall the budgetary seriousness of the right. Nothing to do with the executive, which intends to carry out this reform to its end.

On the right, the choice of an amendment goes badly. Its provisions would not be submitted to the Council of State and would not be the subject of an impact study, privileges granted to the initial text. Another reason for concern: the PLFSS may not contain compensation measures for hardship or long careers, which would be sanctioned as “social rider”. “In terms of social acceptance, it’s explosive,” anticipates a deputy. “We do not deal with general policy in a PLFSS, abounds the deputy of the Alpes-Maritimes Éric Pauget. If the executive passes in force, I will denounce it.”

The boss of the LR deputies Olivier Marleix thus judges such an amendment “not respectful of the social partners”. His counterpart in the Senate Bruno Retailleau castigates to the Express a “too brutal method”. The Vendéen would like a specific text or that the government take its responsibilities from the initial PLFSS. “But, in this case, the complete reform will not be able to do without an ad hoc law”, he specifies.

This debate promises friction on the right. In the event of reform by amendment, what will the LRs do? Some could oppose in the name of a brutal reform, when others could bow in the name of the superior interest of the balance of pensions. “An amendment in the PLFSS is out of the question”, mocks the deputy of the Loire Antoine Vermorel-Marques. “I have no reason not to vote what we usually vote in the Senate for political reasons”, confides on the other hand Bruno Retailleau. A senator thus urges that the LR deputies will want to “show their big arms” to remind them of their membership in the opposition. Differences could arise between the two chambers.

The background remains. All the right is won over to the idea of ​​postponing the legal age of departure. All ? No, because a group of indomitable parliamentarians led by Aurélien Pradié opposes it and favors playing on the contribution period. These young deputies, like Julien Dive or Pierre-Henri Dumont, consider the mechanism unfair to early workers. “Pradié takes the light, but lacks consistency, mocks an LR deputy. He breaks with twenty years of speech on the right.”

The young elected Lotois could find an ally of circumstances. A man has indeed his little idea to get out of the trap: Laurent Wauquiez thinks about proposals which do not consist in playing on the legal age – a reasoning which he considers in private worthy of the 20th century. With one goal in mind: to prove that the right knows how to reconcile reform and modernity without getting in the wheel of Emmanuel Macron. A performance never achieved before.


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