President Lula (PT) signaled to allies that he does not intend to give in to pressure from the president of the Chamber, Arthur Lira (PP-AL), against the Minister of Institutional Relations, Alexandre Padilha (PT), who is responsible for the government’s political coordination with the National Congress.
Lira has raised her tone and warned Lula’s interlocutors that, without Padilha’s change, the government’s agenda in the Chamber would not move forward.
The 2024 calendar, the election year, poses a greater challenge to the Planalto’s articulation given the assessment that there will be less time to vote on matters including those of interest to the Executive — traditionally, the Legislature is emptied during elections.
The strategy of Lula’s assistants is to let the worst phase of the storm pass and, in the coming weeks, try to arrange a meeting between Lira and Padilha so that there can be a rapprochement. The idea, for now, is that the minister should be kept in office.
Members of Palácio do Planalto do not consider that there was a break between the deputy from Alagoas and the minister, despite recognizing that the relationship is not good.
Lira indicated to Lula’s allies that the target of the dissatisfaction is Padilha, not the government. Therefore, government supporters say that the president of the Chamber will not refuse to talk to other PT ministers, such as Rui Costa (Casa Civil) and Fernando Haddad (Finance), in addition to the government leader in the House, deputy José Guimarães (PT-CE) , and President Lula himself.
On Wednesday (31), Rui and other interlocutors of the PT member went to the official residence of the presidency of the Chamber, in Brasília. Lira’s artillery was once again focused on the government’s political articulation and sensitive agendas, such as the presidential veto of R$5.6 billion in parliamentary amendments in 2024, the election year.
In Planalto, the notice arrived that Lira intends to meet with Lula in the next few days. The expectation of palace officials is that the deputy will try to agree on the government’s support for whoever he chooses to occupy the presidency of the Chamber, whose election is a year from now, and also prepare the ground for the 2026 electoral race — allies say that Lira is seeking the vacancy for senator of Alagoas.
However, Lula’s aides say that Lira has been pulling the strings against the government (for example, she did not go to the Democracia Unabalada event or Ricardo Lewandowski’s inauguration at the Ministry of Justice). This, according to these members of the government, could open space for the PT member to strengthen relations with other cardinals in Congress, such as the president of the Senate, Rodrigo Pacheco (PSD-MG), and the vice-president of the Chamber Marcos Pereira (Republicanos-SP) .
Lira’s base in the Chamber was consolidated in the face of the expansion of amendments, mainly during the government of Jair Bolsonaro (PL), which expanded the power of the Congress leadership. The division of funds between deputies goes through Lira. But, under Lula’s administration, the leaders of the Chamber and Senate lost management in the process of releasing and executing transfers, which became concentrated in Padilha’s portfolio.
Lula’s aides say they believe that the president will keep Padilha in office and with the same duties, as he is the one who will be able to mediate with Congress a model of management of these amendments desired by the PT member — in which the Palácio do Planalto dictates the pace of payments and participates of political negotiations.
They also state that a change of Padilha at this time would signal a greater empowerment of Lira, to the detriment of a weakening of the Executive itself.
Lula has indicated to people close to him that, upon returning from the Legislative recess, he intends to insist on plans that displease the parliamentary leadership, such as regaining greater control over amendments and that these resources can be directed to the New PAC (Growth Acceleration Program ), Lula’s main showcase in the infrastructure area.
Palácio do Planalto is evaluating a new attack on Congress so that deputies and senators can place their amendments in PAC works. In return, the projects sponsored by parliamentarians would receive extra funding, funded with resources from the federal government.
A similar offer was presented last year and the majority of Congress rejected it. Few of the amendments were allocated to the PAC, as chosen by parliamentarians.
Lula’s ministers now argue that, when the vetoed R$5.6 billion is returned to the amendment quota, the government negotiates for the money to enter the PAC, in projects sponsored by deputies and senators.
On Thursday (1st), the Minister of Planning, Simone Tebet (MDB), stated that it is “likely” that the federal government will forward a project to Congress around Carnival to restore the cut in commission amendments.
Today there are three types of amendments: individual amendments (to which every deputy and senator is entitled), bench amendments (parliamentarians from each state define priorities for the region) and committee amendments (defined by members of the Congressional bodies).
Lula’s veto targeted the committee amendments. Congressional leaders admit that the committee amendments will function like the extinct rapporteur amendments, which were the main bargaining chip in the negotiations between the Bolsonaro government and the Legislature. The mechanism for rapporteur amendments, however, was overturned by the STF at the end of 2022.
The PT member tried to regain part of the power over the resources indicated by parliamentarians. Last year, he created an even more obscure model, as deputies and senators had a quota in the ministries’ budget, which was not even stamped as an amendment.
The system, whose objective was to restore relevance to Planalto (specifically Padilha’s portfolio) in these negotiations, was rejected by Lira and other members of the Congress leadership.
Lira has complained that, at the end of last year, the government stopped implementing amendments, cites changes in rules at the Ministry of Health in the final stretch of December and remembers that ministers used funds that belonged to parliamentarians. And he blames Padilha for these breaches of agreements. But government officials say that payments were made at a normal pace for the period.