Seanad vote on cuts will be tight

Coalition sources say this week’s Seanad votes on social welfare cuts will be tight but are confident of preventing opposition parties delaying the passing of budget legislation.

Social welfare cuts and savings in the budget will be debated over three days in the Seanad, with one veteran Fine Gael senator saying there will be “all-out war” between opposing sides in the house. However, Labour sources last night said they were confident the bill would be passed.

Fine Gael and Labour hold a minority in the Seanad when senators without the whip are excluded, giving the parties 29 votes out of 59. The 60th member, the Cathaoirleach, has a discretionary casting vote if numbers are tied.

Fine Gael party sources have admitted the Coalition was actively trying to “court” Independent senators to help ensure the €290m welfare savings go across the line in the Seanad.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton will address senators over the three days and debates on the bill could run up to or past midnight tomorrow, when the bill is at committee stage.

It is unclear which way Independent senators Paul Bradford and Fidelma Healy Eames (formerly Fine Gael) will vote.

Outspoken Labour senators John Whelan, John Kelly, and Denis Landy have publicly indicated they will support the bill.

The Seanad has the power to delay legislation by up to 90 days by rejecting issues and sending them back to the Dáil.

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