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Argentina's Milei weighs next steps after economic reform bill setback

Argentina's President Javier Milei visits Yad Vashem, in Jerusalem

By Nicolás Misculin

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) -The government of Argentine President Javier Milei was seeking to salvage his wide-ranging economic reform package on Wednesday after Congress delivered a major blow a day earlier, casting doubt over its future and triggering a fall in financial markets.

Lower house lawmakers on Tuesday rejected several crucial proposals in the bill, sending it back to committee and back to the drawing board.

The government said it was seeking ways to keep the bill alive.

"All constitutional tools are being evaluated," presidential spokesman Manuel Adorni said at a news conference on Wednesday. "At some point the law is going to become a reality."

Milei's so-called "omnibus" bill, which had already been significantly reworked by lawmakers before Tuesday's defeat, included provisions to allow for the privatization of state entities and give the president greater powers, among changes to hundreds of regulations.

The government was now weighing whether to break it up into separate bills, ruling party lawmaker Oscar Zago said on Wednesday in an interview on local radio station Urbana.

Zago, who leads the ruling party's minority bloc in the lower house, said a non-binding national referendum could also be held to drum up support for the bill.

Milei, who has accused opposition lawmakers of "betrayal" for voting against some of the key proposals, argues reforms are needed to rescue Argentina from its worst economic crisis in decades, with inflation running at over 200%.

Argentina's stock market fell more than 5% on Wednesday. Bonds slid an average 1%, and the peso currency weakened more than 3%.

(Reporting by Nicolas Misculin; Writing by Brendan O'Boyle; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)