BRASILIA — A committee of Brazil's lower house of Congress voted Monday to recommend the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, who faces charges of breaking budget laws to support her re-election in 2014.
A vote in the full lower house is expected to take place on Sunday. If two-thirds vote in favor, the impeachment will be sent to the Senate.
If the upper house decides by a simple majority to put Rousseff on trial, she will immediately be suspended for up to six months while the Senate decides her fate, and Vice President Michel Temer will take office as acting president.
It would be the first impeachment of a Brazilian president since 1992 when Fernando Collor de Mello faced massive protests for his ouster on corruption charges and resigned moments before his conviction by the Senate.
A former leftist guerrilla, Rousseff has denied any wrongdoing and rallied the rank and file of her Workers' Party to oppose what she has called a coup against a democratically elected president.
Speaking to thousands of supporters in Rio de Janeiro, Rousseff's predecessor and Workers' Party founder Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Brazilian business elites were pressuring lawmakers to remove the president. Lula, who is under investigation in a graft probe, said he had convinced Rousseff to return to policies that favored Brazil's poor.
Caught in a political storm fueled by Brazil's worst recession in decades and the country's biggest corruption scandal, Rousseff has lost key coalition allies in Congress, including her main partner, vice president Temer's PMDB party.
The rift between Rousseff and her vice president reached breaking point on Monday after an audio message of Temer calling for a government of national unity was released apparently by mistake, further muddying Brazil's political water.
In his message, Temer said he did not want to get ahead of events, but he had to show the country he was ready to lead it if needed.
Rousseff's chief of staff Jaques Wagner called the vice president a "conspirator" and said he should resign if Rousseff survives impeachment.
"Having joined the conspiracy, he should resign when it is defeated, because the climate will become unbearable," Wagner told reporters.
Wagner said the government will continue working to muster enough votes to block impeachment in the lower house, encouraged by the fact that in committee the opposition had not won the two thirds it will need in the plenary.