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French lawmakers to vote on European fiscal treaty

PARIS -- French lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to ratify a European fiscal treaty that would impose harsher penalties for countries that overspend.

The treaty passed the National Assembly by 477-70 on Tuesday _ with expected opposition coming from some on the left, including in President Francois Hollande's Socialist Party. The Senate takes it up on Wednesday.

France hasn't balanced a budget in decades and has regularly flouted European requirements that deficits be less than 3 percent of GDP. In 2011, its deficit was 5.2 percent of GDP. It's not the only European country to have ignored those rules _ and the fiscal compact hopes to end those breaches, in part by penalizing countries in violation.

Unions on Tuesday were protesting the treaty and austerity measures imposed by the government.