Supreme Court justice denies request to annul key budget vote

supreme court The House floor on Monday. Photo: Edvaldo Riquelme/Shutterstock
The House floor on Monday. Photo: Edvaldo Riquelme/Shutterstock

Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Rosa Weber rejected three requests to annul a crucial constitutional amendment vote from last Thursday, amid claims House Speaker Arthur Lira had fiddled with congressional rules to push the vote through.

The constitutional amendment in question refers to the Brazilian government’s court-ordered debts, or precatórios. In a bid to free up more budget space, the administration is backing a proposal to cap precatórios repayments scheduled for next year. The money that would save is to be spent on the Auxílio Brasil cash-transfer program, which President Jair Bolsonaro hopes will revive his chances of re-election in 2022.

The proposal passed a first-round vote by a razor-thin margin of just four votes, thanks largely to defections from the opposition. Members of four different parties claimed that the result should be annulled, as the draft put to a vote was not the one that had been previously approved by a Special Committee — a necessary step according to House rules.

Justice Weber abstained from casting judgment over the matter, saying that it is a strictly congressional issue over which the Supreme Court holds no jurisdiction.

The decision frees up lawmakers to carry out the crucial second-round vote on the amendment bill, with House Speaker Arthur Lira hoping to hold the vote today. The government is hopeful for another — albeit slim — victory, noting that many allied lawmakers were absent from Congress during the first-round vote, as it fell during a holiday week.