Italy’s Senate, the upper house of parliament, stands before the start of a confidence vote on the 2017 budget law in Rome, Italy. (Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg)

Italy’s Government Wins Senate Budget Approval After EU Dispute

(Bloomberg) -- Italy’s populist government pushed its budget bill through the Senate after bowing to demands from Brussels, with final approval now needed by the lower house to meet a year-end deadline.

Senators voted early Sunday morning 167 to 78 for spending plans that the Rome administration has curtailed under pressure from the European Commission. The government held a confidence vote, which is often used in Italy to ensure swift approval for legislation.

In the hours before the vote, the Senate chamber and corridors erupted in protests from opposition politicians who accused the government of ramming through the legislation with last-minute changes to its scores of provisions. In some cases, incorrect budget figures were being identified for fixes on the fly, the Ansa news agency reported.

Italy’s weeks-long standoff with the European Union rocked financial markets concerned about the budget’s impact on the nation’s debt pile, the biggest in the euro area in real terms. After long insisting they would not budge, populist leaders Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio cut the cost of their biggest promises -- a lower retirement age, for Salvini, and a citizen’s income for the poor, for Di Maio -- and delayed their implementation.

Rome finally lowered its deficit target for next year to 2.04 percent from a previous 2.4 percent, which the EU had rejected as an “unprecedented” breach of the bloc’s rules.

The legislation is now scheduled to go to the lower house’s budget committee on Dec. 27, and the full chamber on Dec. 28 and 29, La Repubblica newspaper reported.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.