Brazil Lower House Committee Votes to Shelve Temer Charge

(Bloomberg) -- A Brazilian lower house committee voted against putting President Michel Temer on trial for corruption as he fights to remain at the helm of Latin America’s largest economy, in a temporary boost to the embattled head of state.

In two separate ballots, a comfortable majority of lawmakers on the Constitution and Justice Committee voted to recommend the shelving of the corruption charge. A decisive vote on the floor of the lower house will take place on August 2, House Speaker Rodrigo Maia told reporters in Brasilia on Thursday evening.

"Today’s result clearly shows that there is a solid majority who defend democracy, constitutional rights and the rule of law," said presidential spokesman, Alexandre Parola, after the committee’s decision.

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Thursday’s vote provides Brazil’s president with only momentary respite. Aside from the pending floor vote, Temer still faces the possibility of further charges from the nation’s top prosecutor as well as more incriminating testimony from others under investigation. He must also contend with rock-bottom popularity and an economy that’s proving painfully slow to recover from its worst recession on record.

Temer likely has the support to defeat the congressional motion that would put him on trial, according to a tally of lawmaker intentions compiled by Bloomberg. Two-thirds of its 513 members are needed to approve a trial at the Supreme Court.

With his approval rating in single digits, Temer has managed to retain political support with a reform agenda that pleased markets and business leaders. But his ability to propose constitutional amendments is in check as he is forced to spend much of his energy defending himself in Congress. Some political allies -- and investors -- are gauging whether House Speaker Rodrigo Maia, the next-in-line to the presidency, may be better placed to push for reforms.