Brazil's Temer fails to get pensions reform vote this year

By MAURICIO SAVARESEMarketsAssociated Press

A pension reform that's key to the economic agenda of Brazilian President Michel Temer won't come to a vote this year, lowering the chances he can get it passed before leaving office.

Chamber of Deputies Speaker Rodrigo Maia said on Thursday he aims put the bill to a vote on Feb. 19, but even that is far from certain. And passage may become harder as the October 2018 general election nears.

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Temer is struggling to get the 308 votes needed to pass the measure, which would require most people to work more years to receive full benefits. The embattled leader says the reform is needed so that Brazil can achieve sustainable growth, but it has met widespread resistance.

Temer's current popularity is in single digits, though he's maintained support from business leaders and most lawmakers.

Maia, who is an ally of the president, said he believes the austerity bill can be approved a week after Brazil stops to celebrate Carnival next year.

"We will debate this topic in a transparent way. This time, even in an electoral year, it can be approved," Maia said.

"Ideally we would vote now, but time will help us clarify," he added. "We don't have the votes today."

Rating agency Moody's said in a statement that the delay "raises the chances that the reform is not approved next year, given the uncertainty around the presidential elections."

Moody's rates Brazil Ba2, which is in the speculative range.

Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who leads pre-election polls, post, is one of the main critics of Temer's pension reform, though da Silva could be barred from running if a court upholds a corruption conviction.