July 10, 2019 / 11:58 AM / 11 days ago

Brazil lower house expected to vote on pension reform Wednesday

BRASILIA, July 10 (Reuters) - Brazil’s lower house of Congress is expected to begin voting Wednesday on a landmark overhaul to the country’s pension system, after it was pushed back a day due to ongoing political bargaining between the government and opposition lawmakers.

Speaker Rodrigo Maia said in a Twitter post early on Wednesday he will open the parliamentary session at 9 a.m. local time (1200 GMT) to analyze the basic text of the bill, then get the vote underway.

“At 9:00 am, we will have a new session to begin voting. Our role, that of myself and the political leaders who support the reform, is to mobilize and secure support,” Maia said. “On Wednesday, we will close the first round of voting.”

Tuesday’s debate extended past midnight as bargaining continued between government and opposition lawmakers and it became clear the government was not yet confident it had the 308 votes needed to proceed to the next round of voting.

Maia determines when a vote occurs but will only proceed when he is confident he has enough support in the house, which is comprised of representatives of more than 20 political parties.

The reforms are a key part of the economic agenda of President Jair Bolsonaro as he tries to bring the country’s public finances back to health, saving the public purse around 1 trillion reais ($263 billion) over the next decade.

His economy ministry says Brazil’s growth and inflation prospects for years to come will rest on closing the huge budget gap created by the generous pension system.

Newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo said on Wednesday that the government could now count on at least 298 votes, according to its tracking poll of lawmakers, the highest number estimated yet and only 10 votes short of what is needed to pass this round of voting.

$1 = 3.8000 Reporting by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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