Power

How Brazilian Congress changed the balance of power in Brasília

The return in force under the current government of opaque budgetary grants for lawmakers has given Congress unprecedented power — that will last beyond this legislature

congress House Speaker Arthur Lira (left) and Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco. Photo: Zeca Ribeiro/CD
House Speaker Arthur Lira (left) and Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco. Photo: Zeca Ribeiro/CD

For decades, the political agenda in the Brazilian Congress was flooded with proposals from the Executive branch — meaning that lawmakers would essentially rubberstamp the work of the president du jour. But that has changed since Jair Bolsonaro came to power in 2019 without a coalition to call his own. 

This new arrangement pushed Congress to the forefront of politics like never before.

The lack of a network of supporting parties meant Mr. Bolsonaro’s administration struggled mightily to get anything approved in its first years, per the Brazilian Legislative Observatory. Moreover, the pandemic meant that the agenda was dominated by...

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