Brazil congressional commission to vote on impeachment
RIO DE JANEIRO — Efforts to remove Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff from office advanced Monday, with a congressional commission nearing a vote on whether it should recommend impeachment to the full lower house of Congress.
The 65-member commission is widely expected to vote, as early as late Monday, for impeachment on allegations Rousseff violated fiscal laws.
However, the vote is largely symbolic: Whatever the outcome, the measure will go to the full lower house for a crucial vote expected at week’s end.
With 342 votes in the 513-member Congress needed for the process to move forward, current projections show the outcome too close to call. Brazil’s biggest party, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, pulled out of Rousseff’s governing coalition late last month, forcing the government to scramble to secure the support of other, smaller parties to help block the impeachment process.
If the measure passes the lower house, it goes to the Senate, which would decide whether to open a trial. If that happens, Rousseff would be suspended from office for up to 180 days during a trial.
In yet another twist in the months-long saga, the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper released the audio of an address by Vice President Michel Temer, who would take over if Rousseff were suspended. The audio, which the newspaper said was sent to members of Temer’s PMDB party, appears to be a draft of an address that Temer would make to the Brazilian people if the impeachment process were to move forward following a vote in the full Congress.
In the address, Temer speaks as if he had already assumed the top job, saying, “Many people sought me out so that I would give at least preliminary remarks to the Brazilian nation, which I am doing with modesty, caution and moderation.”
Temer says Brazil needs a “government of national salvation” to pull the country out of its current recession and calls for unity from the splintered political system. In an apparent bid to soothe the impoverished segments of society that are among Rousseff’s strongest supporters, Temer pledges not to dismantle popular wealth-transfer programs and to expand them as necessary.
Temer’s office said the audio was sent “by accident” to fellow party members.
In a reaction on Twitter, Rousseff’s governing Workers’ Party suggested the audio could ultimately work against Temer.
A Supreme Court justice last week ruled that the speaker of the lower house in Congress must open impeachment proceedings against Temer, who faces the same allegations of breaking fiscal rules as Rousseff. If he, too, were suspended from office, house Speaker Eduardo Cunha would be in line to take over. But Cunha is facing money laundering and other charges stemming from allegations he received kickbacks in the sprawling corruption scheme at the state-run Petrobras oil company.
An investigation into the far-reaching scheme has shaken Brazil over two years, with top politicians and some of the country’s richest and most powerful businessmen detained, charged and even convicted in the scheme.