July 12, 2017 / 1:00 PM / in 16 days

Brazil house speaker stands up to president on labour reform

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FILE PHOTO: Brazilian Lower House's President Rodrigo Maia gestures during the reading of the request of the Supreme Court to put Brazilian President Michel Temer on trial for corruption, in Brasilia, Brazil June 29, 2017.Ueslei Marcelino/ File Photo

BRASILIA (Reuters) - The speaker of Brazil's lower house vowed on Wednesday to fight any changes President Michel Temer makes to a labour reform bill passed by the Senate, highlighting new tension between longtime political allies.

The speaker, Rodrigo Maia, would replace Temer if Congress allows the Supreme Court to move ahead with a corruption charge against the president, a vote that Maia has said he wants to have this week.

The bill, a business-friendly measure modernizing labour laws dating from the 1940s, passed by a wide margin in the Senate on Tuesday following approval in the lower house and will be sent to Temer to be signed into law.

Given that any changes in the Senate would have sent the bill back to the lower house for fresh debate, Temer assured senators on Tuesday that he would use a decree to tweak the legislation as they suggested after he signs it into law.

Maia rejected any such arrangement.

"The lower house will not accept any change to the law. Any (presidential decree) will not be recognised by the House," the speaker said in a Twitter post shortly after midnight.

Prosecutors charged Temer last month in a graft scheme involving JBS SA, the world's biggest meatpacker.

Executives said the president took bribes from the company in exchange for resolving tax matters and facilitating loans from state-run banks.

Temer has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

The presidential press office said in a statement that Maia has remained loyal to Temer since becoming speaker last year.

"The presidential palace rebuffs the attempts to create a false crisis between the Executive and Legislative power without connection to facts and reality," the statement said.

Under Brazilian law, two-thirds of the lower house of Congress must vote to allow a criminal charge against a sitting president to move to the Supreme Court. The vote could happen Friday or possibly be delayed until early August, after a congressional recess.

Reporting by Silvio Cascione and Brad Haynes; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Grant McCool

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