BRASILIA (Reuters) - The speaker of the lower house of Brazil's Congress on Tuesday urged that a vote be held this week on a corruption charge facing President Michel Temer.
Speaker Rodrigo Maia of the Democrats Party, who would become the interim president should Temer step aside, said Brazil "cannot wait" for resolution of the first charge among several expected to be brought against Temer.
"We need to make a decision, to give a response to the prosecutor general's charge, so that we can continue voting on our agenda, and our agenda is the (economic) reforms," Maia told journalists.
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Temer was charged last month in connection with a graft scheme involving JBS SA, the world's biggest meatpacker. Executives said the president took bribes to resolve tax matters and facilitate loans from state-run banks.
Temer has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Under Brazilian law, two-thirds of the lower house of Congress must vote to allow a criminal charge against a sitting president to move to the Supreme Court. The vote could happen this Friday or possibly be delayed until early August, after a congressional recess.
A swift vote on the charge is seen by many in Brasilia as a way to block prosecution of Temer while his hand is stronger in Congress, before any further plea bargains by jailed politicians and executives bring fresh allegations to light.
Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot alleged in the charge that Temer made deals under which JBS would have paid him 38 million reais ($11.5 million) over the next nine months.
Janot has said he will likely charge Temer in the coming weeks with racketeering and obstruction of justice.
If the top court accepts a charge and puts the president on trial, he would be suspended for 180 days and replaced by Maia on an interim basis.
In interviews with Reuters this week, six key lawmakers both in Temer's coalition and in the opposition said on condition of anonymity that they think the president can muster the votes to block the first charge against him in a vote this week.
However, the congressmen also said that a delayed vote or an accumulation of charges from Janot could erode the president's support in Congress.
(Reporting by Brad Brooks and Ricard Brito in Brasilia; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)