PT seeks to overcome barriers in the Chamber and approve PEC in a decisive week for the elected government

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PT seeks to overcome barriers in the Chamber and approve PEC in a decisive week for the elected government

In a decisive week for the new government, the team of the president-elect, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT), seeks to resolve the deadlock that stopped the vote on the PEC (proposed amendment to the Constitution) in the Chamber of Deputies, which allows the expansion of spending in 2023.

On the one hand, negotiations began to falter amid disputes over ministries and waiting for the final verdict of the STF (Federal Supreme Court) on the rapporteur’s amendments, an instrument used as a bargaining chip in Congressional negotiations.

On the other hand, centrão parliamentarians complain about the PT’s resistance to negotiating changes in the text that include demands from these benches, such as the reduction of extra amounts and the duration of the measures.

A new attempt at voting will be made next Tuesday (20), a date already very close to the deadline for resolving the hole in the 2023 Budget later this year, giving Lula more comfort to start his third term.

Despite the tight deadline, interlocutors of the president-elect say they believe in the approval of the PEC, which continues to be the main bet of the party.

The PT’s goal is to approve in the Chamber the same text validated by the Senate, which increases the spending ceiling by R$ 145 billion and authorizes another R$ 23 billion in investments outside the spending limit, all for a period of two years.

The future finance minister, Fernando Haddad, even got directly involved in conversations with the mayor, Arthur Lira (PP-AL), to try to approve the proposal while preserving the same terms already endorsed by the senators.

Thus, the PEC could go on to be enacted, putting an end to the wear and tear of a new government that has not even taken office, but has already had to go out in the field to negotiate a major legislative change. Deletions of sections considered as accessories, such as authorization for transfers to multilateral organizations outside the spending ceiling, would not affect this strategy.

Without deeper changes, however, members of the centrão have the assessment that the new government will hardly be able to gather the 308 votes needed to approve a constitutional change in the Chamber. The main demand is to cut the authorized value and limit the validity of the measures to a single year. The shorter term obliges the new government to immediately sew a definitive way out for the country’s finances with the new Congress that takes office on February 1st.

Parliamentarians privately affirm that an “objective dialogue” about the PEC is missing, with some nod from Lula’s base to reach a middle ground. The speech is that the vote count will depend on the agreed text.

The change in value and term would require a new vote in the Federal Senate. The President of the House, Rodrigo Pacheco (PSD-MG), has already signaled that this option is viable, but the PT still resists accepting these terms.

The atmosphere, which was already heavy, soured once and for all with a speech by Deputy José Guimarães (PT-CE), Deputy Leader of the Minority in the Chamber, on Thursday (15). He said that if the text was not voted on that day, “there is no more proposal”. The statement was interpreted as an ultimatum to Lira, further disrupting the negotiations.

The arm wrestling, however, does not only involve the content of the PEC and also has political components related to the composition of Lula’s first echelon.

According to reports, Lira wants to place allies in ministries, in addition to maintaining the power obtained from managing the billionaire resources of the amendments – which will reach R$ 19.4 billion next year.

A member of the PT accompanying the negotiations says that the president of the Chamber even mentioned that it would be necessary to make a choice: either reduce the term, or reduce the value of the PEC, or negotiate a ministry.

The mayor denies that he is bargaining for positions in the new government. But, according to reports gathered by the Sheet, he wants to nominate a PP ally for the Ministry of Health, waving 20 to 25 votes from the bench in favor of the PEC, and supports the name of the leader of União Brasil in the Chamber, Elmar Nascimento (BA), for the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME). Positions in public banks are also in the crosshairs.

For Health, however, Lula has shown himself to be irreducible in nominating Nísia Trindade, former president of Fiocruz (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation). For this reason, Lira also put as an option a nomination for the Ministry of Cities —preferably, with a structure that houses Codevasf (Companhia de Desenvolvimento dos Vales do São Francisco e do Parnaíba), a state-owned company that runs several works in strategic states for the center.

Some PT members, however, believe that Lira’s demands may become insurmountable, making the approval of the PEC later this year an unknown quantity. In addition to having increased the bill —the president of the Chamber had already obtained support from the PT to be re-elected to the command of the House—, the new government needs to compose with other parties that also claim a place in the first echelon.

If the impasse is not resolved, PT members begin to consider the need to activate the last of the alternatives: appeal to the STF or the TCU (Tribunal de Contas da União) to guarantee at least the continuity of the minimum benefit of BRL 600 from the Bolsa Family.

The president of the TCU, Minister Bruno Dantas, declared on Thursday that the court of accounts has already established precedents that can serve as a basis for the new government to open an extraordinary credit (outside the spending ceiling) to cover additional expenses of the social program at the turn of the year.

The route of extraordinary credit, however, does not resolve all of Lula’s campaign promises, such as the creation of a benefit of R$ 150 per child or the correction of the minimum wage above inflation. In addition, this type of credit is outside the ceiling, but is accounted for in other fiscal rules, such as the fiscal target – which limits the deficit to R$ 65.9 billion next year.

The so-called “plan B” has already been mentioned as an alternative in an extreme case by different members of the new government, including the elected vice-president, Geraldo Alckmin (PSB), and the elected senator Wellington Dias (PT-PI), appointed to negotiate the PEC in the Legislature. But the discourse is that Lula preferred to adopt the exit through politics, dialoguing with the current Congress.

On the other hand, the existence of Plan B has also been used by PT members as a tool to try to reduce the sense of urgency of the PEC —which has given the President of the Chamber bargaining power in negotiations.

In the assessment of the general rapporteur for the 2023 Budget, senator Marcelo Castro (MDB-PI), parliamentarians should also weigh the costs of not voting on the PEC later this year. He recalls that the text seeks to guarantee the continuity of payments to families in poverty and extreme poverty, in addition to recomposing resources for the areas of education and health.

“Anything can happen, but it’s the worst way [não votar a PEC]🇧🇷 The best way is to pass it on Tuesday and vote on my report [do Orçamento] on Wednesday [21]🇧🇷 There is a deadline, now you also need to understand [dos parlamentares]”, it says.

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