July 20, 2017 / 11:28 AM / 4 months ago

Brazil's house speaker eyes pension vote by end-August - paper

BRASILIA, July 20 (Reuters) - Brazil’s lower house aims to put a landmark pension overhaul to vote by the end of August, speaker Rodrigo Maia told a newspaper in an interview published on Thursday.

The unpopular overhaul, the government’s top priority to revive a recession-hit economy, has remained stuck in Congress since President Michel Temer was implicated in a major corruption scandal in May.

“My strategy is to resume negotiations when August comes,” Maia was quoted as saying by the O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper. “We need to start voting it in August. If we don’t send it to a floor vote by the end of August, we won’t vote it anymore.”

Congress returns from a two-week recess on Aug. 1. With general elections scheduled for October 2018, legislators have warned that unpopular measures such as the pension overhaul face diminishing chances of success as time passes.

Maia opposes the idea of staggering the changes proposed to the social security system to speed up their approval.

“Considering that before the House resumes work would give a signal that we will have less than we need and than we could have approved,” Maia said.

“It will be more comfortable for Brazil if we don’t need to propose another reform within two, three years.”

Maia, the scion of a storied political clan in Rio de Janeiro, could become Brazil’s third president in just over a year if Temer is suspended in the coming months to face a corruption trial. A first lower house vote on whether to request Temer’s suspension is scheduled for Aug. 2.

Unions oppose the pension reform as it will set a minimum age of retirement and will cut social security benefits. Economists say the proposal is crucial to balancing Brazil’s budget in the long run and avoiding a potential debt crisis.

The overhaul needs three-fifths of the votes in the senate and the lower house to pass as a constitutional amendment.

With such a high bar for approval, Temer is considering to quickly push through a mini tax reform to show his allies that he is still advancing on a promised reform agenda, a presidential aide told Reuters on Tuesday. (Writing by Silvio Cascione)

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