Brazilian Supreme Knocks Down Congress’s 91% Hike, But They Still Want It

The Brazilian Supreme Court (STF) granted unanimously, on Tuesday, December 19, a preliminary injunction voiding the Brazilian congress decision of giving itself a 91% salary hike.

On December 14, the leadership on both houses of congress had passed the raise that would make Brazilian congressmen the best paid in the world.

The Supreme justices ruled on a suit brought up by three House representatives who opposed the wage increase. They are Fernando Gabeira from Rio’s Green Party; Raul Jungmann from Pernambuco’s PPS and Carlos Sampaio from São Paulo’s PSDB.

Told about the Supreme’s ruling, the speaker of the House, Aldo Rebelo from São Paulo’s Communist Party of Brazil, started negotiations with the leaders of all parties to have a floor vote about the raise this Wednesday.

Renan Calheiros, the president of the Senate, from Alagoas’s PMDB said that his intention was to decide about the matter "as soon as possible." He didn’t say, however, if he would defend the 24.500 reais (US$ 11,380) a month that the congress leadership had voted for.

Late last night, Rebelo and Calheiros announced that they were thinking about backing out from their earlier wage boost decision which would give them the same monthly salary the Supreme Court ministers earn now.

If the legislators, however, decide to readjust their wages according to inflation in the last four years (28.4%) then they would get 16,500 reais (US$ 7,700) a month.

Many congressmen believe that there’s no climate now in the country to vote for doubling their salaries as it was done. There have been a few protests in the streets and a lot of criticism in the media against the measure. But probably nothing would have happened if it weren’t for the Supreme intervention.

A vote from the full congress, it was already announced, will require that every candidate declares its vote. If anonymity were allowed the chances of repealing the raise would be much slimmer.

Apparently, however, the so-called "low clergy," as the lesser known representatives are known, continue insisting on almost doubling their pay.

The leadership has been appealing to common sense from their colleagues and recommending that the legislators accept for now a raise that would only cover inflation and at the same time continue fighting to have their salaries raised to the same level of the ministers of the Supreme. 

One of the options would be to get an initial 28.4% increase with gradual wage hikes in the next four years till the salary reaches the 24,500 reais they really want.

Nowadays, besides the salary of 12.847 reais (US$ 5.970), which is paid 15 times a year,  each congressman has a monthly allowance of 15,000 reais (US$ 7,000) for expenses on the home state office,  plus  50,000 reais (US$ 23,000) for the Brasí­lia office, plus 3,000 reais (US$ 1,400) for housing aid, besides 4,000 reais (US$ 1.900) for stamps and telephone and four monthly round-trip air tickets to their home state. When everything is computed it amounts to about 1 million reais (US$ 650,000) a year per congressman.

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