December 15, 2017 / 6:08 PM / a year ago

Brazil's Temer says pension bill 2 to 3 dozen votes short

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President Michel Temer attends a meeting with Business Leaders to discuss the pension reform bill in the lower house, in Brasilia, Brazil December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil’s government has secured between 270 and 280 of the 308 votes needed to approve a bill to overhaul the country’s bloated social security system in February, President Michel Temer said on Friday.

It was the first time Temer has said how many votes are still needed to reach the three-fifths super majority to pass the unpopular legislation that investors see as vital to bringing a huge budget deficit under control.

“That is the reason why we put off the vote until February,” Temer said at the swearing-in of a cabinet minister who will be responsible for mustering the votes shortfall.

The measure is due to be put to the vote on Feb. 19, after the Christmas to Carnival Congressional recess, when it could meet with greater reluctance from lawmakers as the 2018 general election approaches.

The delay has increased market skepticism over Brazil’s ability to rein in a deficit that caused the loss of its investment grade credit rating.

Temer’s new minister of political affairs, Carlos Marun, said the bill’s approval will be his biggest challenge as he takes over government relations with Congress.

Marun was sworn in to succeed Antonio Imbassahy, whose PSDB party quit Temer’s governing coalition and is split over delivering its 46 votes in the lower house to help pass Temer’s pension plan.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Susan Thomas

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