By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – A Brazilian Supreme Court Justice removed Senator Renan Calheiros from the Senate Presidency on Monday, December 5th, after he was found guilty of embezzlement last week. The removal of Calheiros is just the latest blow to Michel Temer’s government and is likely to delay Congressional approval of much-needed austerity measures.
Although government leaders in Congress were quick on Monday to state that there would be no delays in approving the spending cap bill put forth by the Temer administration, Calheiros’ replacement as Senate leader is PT (Worker’s Party) Senator, Jorge Vianna, who has vocally opposed the project.
“There is a timely agenda with [ex] President Calheiros, with the entire Senate leaders and with the (political) parties. This timetable will be respected, regardless of who is presiding the session,” government majority leader, Romero Jucá told reporters on Monday night trying to downplay the situation.
But Congressional representatives from the PT party are said to be already formulating ways to delay the Senate vote. “We live a political crisis, economic crisis and a very serious institutional crisis,” minority leader, Lindbergh Farias was quoted as saying by Agencia Brasil. “What I do know is that with this decision (removal of Calheiros), the Federal Senate does not have any condition to vote the PEC 55 (spending cap bill).”
According to Farias, he and other PT representatives will speak to Senator Viana and “ask him to postpone the PEC vote [in the second round],” due to the institutional instability.
In addition to the spending cap bill, Senators are also discussing the anti-corruption bill, approved last week by the Lower House. Calheiros tried to call for an emergency vote, hours after the Lower House voted on the bill, but was stopped by opposition leaders. The bill, according to critics, was significantly changed to benefit politicians.
Also coming up for Congressional approval is the social security reform bill, to be announced by the Administration on Tuesday, December 6th.