Cabinet crisis averted as compromise nears
After three days of crisis over Minister Edith Schippers' (Public Health) rejected healthcare law, the VVD and PvdA reached a compromise and the impending fall of the government was averted. The three allied opposition parties, the D66, SGP and ChristenUnie, still have some major concerns.
The intention is to crate a General Administrative Order for if things again go wrong with the healthcare law in the First Chamber (Senate). This does not need to be discussed in parliament. A General Administrative Order is intended to regulate matters that were not foreseen.
"The coalition parties have an agreement with each other", said D66 leader Alexander Pechtold after a meeting with the coalition partners and the Cabinet in the Torentje of Prime Minister Mark Rutte. "We have made no agreement with the Cabinet." Pechtold's main concern is this "trick" of the Cabinet to still get its way. He sees the method as constitutionally dubious.
In the Chamber debate that followed the deal between the PvdA and VVD, ChristenUnie leader Arie Slob said that his party will not support the new healthcare law if the Cabinet continues to link it with a General Administrative Order. The ChristenUnie supported the healthcare law that was rejected in the Senate on Tuesday and is prepared "to look at the new law with an open mind". But Slob wants to move away from the link to a General Administrative Order. He saw members of the coalition party PvdA vote against it this week. "If that happens twice, it is a political reality that you should take very seriously", says Slob.
PvdA leader Diederik Samsom and VVD faction leader Halbe Zijlstra defended the option of a General Administrative Order in the debate, but received a lot of criticism from the opposition, even from allied factions (D66, ChristenUnie and SGP). Opposition parties spoke of a trick (SP), a threat (D66), a ruse to circumvent the Senate (GroenLinks) or questioned whether it is constitutionally pure (ChristenUnie).
According to Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the General Administrative Order is not intended to circumvent the parliament through some kind of shortcut. Should the Senate reject the legislative proposal again, the Cabinet will first talk to the Chamber, Rutte said in the debate. "No shortcuts" he emphasized. He is convinced that the new legislative proposal will make it.
According to Zijlstra, the emergency road is hypothetical, but constitutionally correct. Samsom said that the goals of the healthcare law - better care at lower costs - are too important to pass up. "So if it does not work with a beautiful law, then you are going to do it with a General Administrative Order that is less beautiful, but brings us closer to the goals."
The crisis began on Tuesday in the Senate when a legislative proposal on health insurance policies was rejected. Three PvdA senators were partly to blame. They voted against the proposal, to the surprise of the coalition.
The VVD then demanded that PvdA leader Diederik Samsom and PvdA Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher solve the problem internally. That required long discussions with the "dissident" PvdA senators Guujse ter Horst, Adri Duivesteijn and Marijke Linthorst. They had objections in principle, but on Thursday appeared satisfied with the changes that Schippers was willing to make. hey refused to give a guarantee that the three will support the amendment, but after the discussions the Cabinet is confident that all will be well.