Pension Reform Bill Has yet to Pass First Obstacle
The government will have another chance to move forward with its showcase social security reform bill this Tuesday, when a vote is scheduled in the House Judiciary Committee, the first step towards having it passed by both chambers in Congress on what is likely to be a long and rocky road.
The process has already been delayed and prospects for seeing the much-praised original proposal maintained are quite dim. Most observers believed that concessions to the opposition and those in the government base who do not fully agree with the project would only come much further down the road.
But it appears that at least four topics could be changed in order to surpass this first obstacle. President Bolsonaro himself has already indicated his disposition towards some of the changes.
He continues to offer lukewarm endorsement to the bill. During his 28-year tenure as lawmaker, he consistently voted against similar measures when they were sent to Congress. He claims to have changed his mind because, unlike in the past when he represented specific constituencies, he now represents the whole nation.
His actions do not demonstrate much enthusiasm for reform however. Economy Minister Paulo Guedes continues to negotiate with House Speaker Rodrigo Maia and says he is confident about passing a bill that is not too watered down.
But other ministers and government leaders in Congress have had much less success in gathering substantive support for the bill.
Bolsonaro and Guedes seem to have temporarily overcome the rift caused by the President’s interference in the Petrobras decision to raise diesel fuel prices. Bolsonaro retreated, a smaller hike was established and the government offered compensatory concessions to truckers who had protested the new prices.
But tensions have not disappeared altogether, and the chance for some sort of “warning” and a limited strike by truckers remains a threat. Bolsonaro is sympathetic to the truckers’ cause and thankful to them for their huge support during his 2018 presidential campaign. Guedes, on the other hand, understands the potentially harmful implications of too many concessions to truckers.
If an acceptable version of the bill passes the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, it could enhance the chances of a fresh start for this administration.
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