Hartz IV becomes citizen income – or not? After the “yes” in the Bundestag for the reform of the traffic light coalition, the “no” threatens on Monday in the Bundesrat. The Union is against the plans. Now there will probably be a short but tough conciliation procedure.
After weeks of discussions and the Bundestag decision to introduce a citizens’ allowance, the citizens will probably only find out at the end of the month whether it is really going to happen and how it will be structured in concrete terms. Before the vote on the law in the Bundesrat this Monday, there were increasing indications that there would be no approval for the traffic light project and that a search for a compromise in the mediation committee of the Bundestag and Bundesrat would be necessary. According to experts, a compromise should be found by the end of November at the latest so that the citizen’s income can be introduced as planned on January 1st.
Representatives of Union and Ampel made their opposing positions clear again at the weekend. Bavaria’s Prime Minister and CSU boss Markus Söder demanded in the “Bild am Sonntag” (BamS) that the traffic light had to be fundamentally improved: in terms of sanctions, protective assets and the performance principle. “Only under these conditions can there be consent.” CDU leader Friedrich Merz told the “Welt am Sonntag”: “With this law, the federal government is carrying out a complete system change in labor market policy. Compromises are difficult there.”
Traffic light politicians criticized the CDU and CSU. “The Union is becoming a pure opposition party. She’s rushing, using wrong numbers, railing against an important reform,” Greens leader Omid Nouripour told BamS. In the opinion of the deputy leader of the SPD parliamentary group, Dagmar Schmidt, the Union has “run the wrong arguments”. “CDU and CSU should stop spreading fake news about citizen income with confused statements,” said Christian Dürr, leader of the FDP parliamentary group, to “Spiegel”. FDP leader Christian Lindner was willing to compromise: “We are going into a mediation process openly,” he told the editorial network Germany. You can negotiate anything.
The traffic light plans provide for an increase in the current standard rate of 449 euros for single people to 502 euros. That is indisputable and is also supported by the Union. In addition, the unemployed are to be put under less pressure in the future by threatened withdrawal of benefits (sanctions), especially in the first six months of receiving citizen benefits (“trust period”). The traffic light wants to relax the requirements for the permitted amount of assets and the size of the apartment for benefit recipients. On all these points, the Union holds up its stop sign. The “so-called citizen money” is the way to an unconditional basic income from tax funds, criticized Merz. The CDU and CSU speak of “wrong incentives” and believe that the citizen’s income reduces the motivation to accept a job.
The state chamber meets on Monday at 11:00 a.m. for its session. Despite all the appeals to the Union-governed countries to agree to citizen income, the chances of this happening are extremely slim. If a law that requires approval is not approved, the joint mediation committee of the Bundestag and Bundesrat – which has 16 members from each house – can be appealed to to find a compromise. That is expected.
The 32 members meet in the Bundesrat building in Berlin, unravel the present law again and look point by point for possible approaches. The left warned in advance: The goal of the CDU and CSU is to “grind the citizens’ income law in the mediation committee”, which will be opposed. Confidentiality applies. Nothing should be given outside of the negotiations in order not to jeopardize finding a compromise. Once an agreement has been reached, both the Bundestag and the Bundesrat must agree to it again.
There isn’t much time left. The Federal Employment Agency, which is responsible for Hartz IV and later for the citizen’s income, had requested a law that had been passed by the end of November at the latest, so that the changeover on January 1, including the increase in the standard rates, would work. On the Friday after next (November 25), the Federal Council will meet for its next regular session and could agree on a possible compromise there. Until then, but not even two weeks time. The members of the Conciliation Committee will probably have to prepare for at least one long night session.
Theoretically yes, but the pressure to compromise is high, also in view of the crisis with enormously increased prices. No one will want to be held responsible for blocking the increase in the standard rate that is to come with the citizens’ income. A look at the statistics of the Mediation Committee makes it clear: In the vast majority of the procedures in the past decades, an agreement was reached and in the end a law was passed.