By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Friday, February 1st, Brazil’s Congress will resume legislative activities after the end-of-year break with one of the highest rates of new members since the country’s return to democracy in 1989. Among the first issues this new Congress will have to discuss is the social security reform.
“There was a big renovation,” Vice-President Hamilton Mourāo told journalists on Wednesday.
“We believe that the strength of the new legislators will favor the understanding by Congress of the responsibilities that it has before Brazil,” concluded the official.
In the Senate, of the 54 seats selected in the October 2018 general elections, 46 will be occupied by new senators, a renewal of more than 87 percent. In the Chamber of Deputies, the rate reached 52 percent of elected representatives.
Nonetheless two veterans, Rodrigo Maia (Chamber) and Renan Calheiros (Senate) are the favorites to head each of the houses.
After the election of the presidents for both legislative houses, lawmakers will have a busy quarter in Brasilia. The government’s proposal for the social security reform is expected to be sent to the legislative by the second week of February.
The reform is considered by President Jair Bolsonaro’s economic team as essential to improve the country’s dismal public accounts.
The Bolsonaro administration, however, will have some tough days ahead, with representatives of some categories, such as the military, arguing that they should stay out of the reform due to special characteristics of their careers. The government disagrees.
“There are in Brazil, those who have obtained privileges and have had difficulty in giving up these privileges, but the president (Jair Bolsonaro) has determined that everyone has to contribute. segments of Brazilian society,” said special secretary for Social Security at the Ministry of Economy, Rogerio Marinho.
The administration, however, may have to yield to the military’s demands. Many of Bolsonaro’s cabinet members and direct aids, including the Vice-President, are former military officers, who receive the benefits of the military pension. The pressure is expected to be strong for the government to exclude them from the reform.