Brazil lower house starts vote on pension reform

The discussion phase was brought to an end in the early hours today

Published in 10/07/2019 - 16:21 By Heloisa Cristaldo, Wellton Máximo - Brasília

Brazil’s lower house finished the discussion phase of the reform in the country’s pension system—the constitutional amendment bill known as PEC 6/19. A requirement to do that was voted 358–118 during a floor session, so the first round of vote on the matter starts today.

Attended by 505 representatives at the beginning of the sitting, the debate on the bill was charged with a tense atmosphere. The first attempt by the opposition to stop the debate from continuing was unsuccessful. Lawmakers voted 331–117 to reject PDT’s motion crossing the overhaul from the agenda.

Pro-government Congress members celebrated the result saying the score serves to gauge the representatives’ willingness to approve the proposal. The bill needs 308 votes—three fifths of the 513 deputies to be approved in two rounds of vote. On Sunday (Jul 7), the president’s Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni said he believes he can count on 330 votes for the approval of the reform at the lower house.

In the view of the government’s leader in Congress, Deputy Joice Hasselmann, the new retirement rules will be the foundation for rebuilding Brazil. “[This is] a just pension system, a solidary pension system, a pension system that serves the poor, a pension system that fights privileges, a pension system that was put together with the aide of the parties of this house,” she argued. “We’re all walking towards the same place: the growth of Brazil,” she added.

Negotiations

The day was full of heated debates between center and pro-government representatives, mediated by house speaker Rodrigo Maia. However, after a number of meetings with party leaders, the impasse regarding the new changes in the text approved by the special committee continued into Tuesday (9). Among the controversies were the removal of security agents and teachers from the proposal and the inclusion of state and municipal civil servants under the new retirement rules.

These negotiations led to a deal put together by the women’s base, which should improve retirement for women. Maia announced the novelty after a meeting with Lorenzoni and Rio Grande do Sul Governor Eduardo Leite.

Opposition parties worked to stop the progress of the session and managed to postpone the beginning of discussions on the reform by 11 hours. Demonstrators were banned from corridors and areas near the floor session, and opposing Congress members were not allowed to hold posters and banners against the reform plan.

The vote is likely to begin tomorrow, Maia reported. If approved in the first round, a vote should be held to skip the usual hiatus of five plenary sessions before the second round takes place. “If we have a overwhelming victory” in the first round, Maia pointed out, “there’s more political ground for breaking the [hiatus] from the first to the second [round].”

If validated by the lower house, the plan will be sent on to the Senate, where it will be considered in two rounds of vote and must garner 49 favorable votes out of the total 81 senators to be approved.

Estimated savings

In the text approved by the special committee, the fiscal impact is expected to amount to $283.6 billion to be saved over the course of ten years. The estimate includes expenses adding up to $246.7 billion and an increase in revenues—through higher taxes and the end of tax breaks—totaling $36.2 billion. Under the original proposal, submitted by the government in February, the amount saved reached R$1.236 trillion in a decade, but it did not include an increase in revenues.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Nélio de Andrade / José Romildo

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