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I. Functioning of the National Legislature
According to article 16 of the internal rules of Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies (lower house of Congress), the president of the Chamber is its representative when it expresses itself collectively and the supervisor of its activities and process, in terms of its internal rules.
The duties of the president of the Chamber, in addition to those identified in the internal rules, include deciding, together with the president of the Federal Senate, on the extraordinary convening of the National Congress in the case of urgency or relevant public interest.
II. Emergency Parliament
The legislation does not provide any arrangements for a designated subgroup of members of the National Congress to constitute a kind of ”emergency parliament” with devolved powers from the whole Congress to address crisis situations.
III. Work During COVID-19 Pandemic
The two houses of Brazil’s National Congress have taken a series of actions concerning their operations in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including enactment of measures that will allow them to function remotely.
- On March 11, 2020, the Chamber of Deputies enacted Act No. 118 (Ato da Mesa), which provides for procedures and rules for preventing infection and the spread of COVID-19 within the scope of the Chamber of Deputies. The measure provides for limited access to the Chamber of Deputies; the cancellation of events on the premises of the Chamber; the suspension of authorizations to travel for officials (servidores) and members to areas listed by the Ministry of Health as having COVID-19 infections; and the administrative removal for fourteen days of officials, members, and associates who were in places where there was a COVID-19 infection. Actions or omissions that violate the Act subject the violator to criminal, civil, ethical (resulting in a warning, for example), and administrative sanctions.
- On March 13, 2020, the Chamber of Deputies enacted Administrative Act No. 70 (Portaria), which regulates Act No. 118 of March 11, 2020, and implements, among other things, telework for specific personnel according to their age and other criteria; mandatory communication of visits made by members, officials, and associates to areas with COVID-19 infections; restrictions on visitor access to the Chamber of Deputies; and an increase in sanitation procedures.
- On March 17, 2020, the Chamber of Deputies enacted Resolution No. 17, which creates, within the scope of the Chamber, a remote deliberation system (sistema de deliberação remota, SDR), an exceptional measure to be activated by the president of the Chamber, which is aimed at allowing the plenary to continue functioning during this public health emergency of international importance related to COVID-19. The system will provide remote discussion and voting on matters under the plenary’s consideration. The Resolution defines “remote discussion and voting” as conducting business through a technological solution that dispenses with the physical presence of members in the plenary. Once the SDR is activated by the president of the Chamber, the plenary deliberations will be taken through virtual sessions and the meetings of the Chamber’s commissions will be suspended. The president of the Chamber will call for the resumption of in-person deliberations as soon as the return of members to Brasília from their states and the holding of sessions and meetings of the organs of the Chamber are, in his opinion, compatible with the recommendations of the Ministry of Health. The SDR will be based on one or more platforms that will allow debate by both audio and video among the members.
- On March 17, 2020, the Direction Committee of the Federal Senate enacted Act No. 7, also creating a remote deliberation system, which is similar to that of the Chamber of Deputies.
Prepared by Eduardo Soares
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
 Id. art. 17(VI)(c).
 Id. art. 2.
 Id. art. 3.
 Id. art. 4.
 Id. art. 5.
 Id. art. 7.
 Id. arts. 4, 9.
 Id. art. 5.
 Id. art. 6.
 Id. art. 1(sole para.).
 Id. art. 2(§ 1).
 Id. art. 2(§ 2).
 Id. art. 3. Article 3 further determines the guidelines for the use of the SDR.
Last Updated: 12/30/2020