BRASILIA Dec 13 Brazilian senators began a
final debate session on Tuesday over a 20-year public spending
cap proposed by President Michel Temer to control a ballooning
budget deficit, a crucial step in his plan to rescue Brazil's
The Senate is expected to approve the spending ceiling by a
wide margin, though leftist opponents of the austerity measure
have sought to delay the vote as long as possible.
Authorities braced for protests outside Brazil's Congress
organized by labor unions and left-wing groups opposed to
cutbacks they say undermine education and health services that
will hurt Brazil's poor.
Police frisked young men and women as they arrived at the
ministry-lined esplanade of Brasilia and seized pen knives,
slings and marbles used by protesters to unbalance police
The unpopular constitutional amendment limits the growth of
federal government spending to the rate of inflation for 20
years, with a presidential review after a decade. It cleared the
Senate in a 61-14 vote in the first of two votes on Nov. 29.
Temer's economic team headed by Finance Minister Henrique
Meirelles has called on the country to back the spending cap,
saying it is vital to putting overdrawn government accounts in
order and improving Brazil's investment grade credit rating.
A new Datafolha poll on Tuesday showed that 60 percent of
Brazilians are against the spending cap. The survey published by
the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper said opposition was strongest
among young people, those with higher education and lower-income
Brazilians, while the rich tended to support it.
Temer's government has also sent Congress a proposal to
reform Brazil's costly pension system, without which economists
say the spending cap will not by itself restore fiscal balance.
Pension reform is expected to face fierce opposition next
year as unemployment rises and the country's worst slump since
the 1930s Great Depression threatens to stretch into a third
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)