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Brazil's House to decide on impeachment by end-March: speaker

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff gestures during a news conference after a meeting with jurists defending her against impeachment at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil December 7, 2015. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil’s lower house of Congress will likely decide by March on whether to recommend the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, House Speaker Eduardo Cunha said on Tuesday.

Cunha, a bitter political foe of the embattled president, said he also plans to appeal recent Supreme Court decisions that raised Rousseff’s prospects for blocking the impeachment process. Rousseff’s opponents filed an impeachment request on the grounds she allegedly broke budget laws.

The Rousseff-Cunha standoff has stalled legislation seen by investors as necessary to shore up investor confidence as Brazil’s budget deficit balloons amid a deep recession.

Cunha’s position was weakened by Supreme Court decisions earlier this month. The justices voted to give the Senate authority to review the grounds for Rousseff’s impeachment even if the lower house votes to recommend her impeachment. The justices also ruled against a lower house ballot that stacked an impeachment committee with Rousseff opponents.

Cunha, who faces his own charges for alleged involvement in a giant corruption scandal involving state-owned oil company Petrobras, said the Senate is unlikely to block Rousseff’s impeachment if the lower house approves it with the required two-third majority.

Many analysts think Rousseff can muster the 171 lower house votes needed to quash the impeachment proceedings, but Cunha said that would not be tantamount to a sweeping political success.

“Even if the government manages to stop it, it will be by a very narrow margin, that will not mean that the administration found support to rule for the next three years.” Cunha said.

Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello; Writing by Silvio Cascione; Editing by W Simon