German MPs begin debate on extending Greek bailout program

German lawmakers began debating an extension of Greece’s bailout, with the measure expected to pass as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition musters its overwhelming majority in parliament.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble sought to stave off dissent in Merkel’s Christian Democratic-led bloc by lawmakers exasperated with the anti-austerity government in Athens led by Alexis Tsipras. Merkel’s bloc and her Social Democratic coalition partner hold 504 of 631 seats in Germany’s lower house of parliament, or Bundestag.

“It’s not about new billions for Greece, it’s not about any change in the program,” Schaeuble told lawmakers. “It’s about offering more time to allow this program to be completed successfully.”

Greece won a reprieve of four months after finance ministers from the 19-member euro area agreed to extend the program. The extension gives Tsipras, who has pledged to undo five years of austerity he says has wrecked Greek economy, until the end of June to cobble together a plan for the bloc’s most indebted country.

Merkel confronted increased skepticism in her own ranks, with 22 of her caucus’s 311 lawmakers rejecting the loan extension in a straw poll Thursday. Still, senior lawmakers predicted the measure will be approved by the Bundestag even after the Greek government’s pointed criticism of Germany.

“The discussion before and after the vote in Greece doesn’t make the decision easier,” Schaeuble said, adding that his country must do everything possible to promote European solidarity.