Senate approves “state of calamity”

calamity Senate set to take center stage in remainder of 2019

In the first remote voting session in Brazilian history, the Senate unanimously passed a motion to place Brazil in a “state of calamity.” 

In February, the Health Minister had already declared a “public health emergency” in the country. The state of calamity is then instated when these situations have materialized.

The state of calamity was created by the 2000 Law of Fiscal Responsibility to grant the federal government mechanisms to free itself from the strict laws regulating public spending in exceptional cases. “So far, Covid-19 has affected more people in the upper classes. When the virus gets to more vulnerable communities—who can’t afford hand sanitizer or high-end hospitals, it will take government action to avoid the worst,” said Senator Daniella Ribeiro, from the state of Paraíba.

remote voting senate calamity
The Senate’s remote voting system. Photo: Prodasen

In his request to lawmakers, President Bolsonaro talked about the “need to raise spending to protect Brazilians’ health and jobs amid an expected drop in tax revenue.” Without the state of calamity, the government would be forced to freeze spending—and eventually go into shutdown mode—with the obligation of meeting its BRL 124 billion primary deficit target.

Covid-19 in the Senate

So far, three senators (including Davi Alcolumbre, the president of the chamber) have tested positive for Covid-19. The other two are Prisco Bezerra from Ceará—who took part in the virtual sitting despite his diagnosis—and Nelsinho Trad, chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee.