BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday said he is confident the lower House will vote to raise a government spending cap and stagger payment of court-ordered debts, but he foresees trouble for passage in the Senate.
A constitutional amendment must pass twice with at least three fifths of the votes in each chamber, but this one passed a first test in the lower house last week by just four votes.
The bill would allow for 92 billion reais ($16.7 billion) of additional spending next year, including a more generous monthly welfare stipend for 17 million poor families.
“It passed the first round of voting in the Chamber, and I think it will pass the second, but we’re going to have problems in the Senate,” Bolsonaro said in an interview with Jovem Pan radio.
He has promised a monthly payment of 400 reais under a proposal he calls Auxilio Brasil, more than double the average stipend for the long-running Bolsa Familia program.
Critics say the president is resorting to populist policies with an eye on next year’s election. Bolsonaro compared Bolsa Familia to vote buying in his 2018 campaign.
The push to overhaul Brazil’s fiscal rules spooked investors last month and has also drawn scrutiny from the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Justice Rosa Weber issued an injunction on Friday that could bar some 8.5 billion in pork barrel spending that the government attached to the bill to win backing of lawmakers.
Her injunction would at least force Congress to make public the destination of the earmarks, which spoil backroom deals with opposition lawmakers who do not want to be seen siding with Bolsonaro’s government in return for pork barrel funds.
Lower House Speaker Arthur Lira met with Chief Justice Luiz Fux late on Monday to urge the court to overturn her injunction.
($1 = 5.5103 reais)
(Reporting by Ricardo Brito in Brasilia and Eduardo Simoes in Sao Paulo; Writing by Anthony Boadle, Editing by Brad Haynes, Angus MacSwan and David Gregorio)