In question are three bills already approved by parliament. One extends the rules of social support provided for self-employed workers; another increases support for parents in remote work; and the third extends the scope of exceptional measures for health professionals in the context of the pandemic to the recovery of primary, and hospital care linked to Covid-19.
The problem began because these new social supports include expenses that were not foreseen in the State budget 2021, that is, an expense not predicted by the government that will change the calculations they made, which could unbalance the budget and increase the deficit.
Because of that, the Prime Minister, António Costa, with his Socialist party, was the only one that voted against two of the bills and abstained in the other, invoking the “lei travão”, that in English means “handbrake law”, which says that the Assembly of the Republic can’t propose bills that affect the current economic year against what is already in the state budget.
In a long note with 12 points, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa justifies his decision by saying that these measures are urgent due to the pandemic, which can "be applied, as long as they respect the budgetary limits", adding that the interpretation is according to the Constitution of the Republic.
António Costa has already reacted ironically saying that the message from the President of the Republic makes a "rich, innovative" interpretation of the Fundamental Law.
However, it rules out the possibility of a political crisis. António Costa said: "The Government has to analyse the message deeply. And that is what we want to do. I do not believe that there is any political crisis on the horizon”.
The Prime Minister may also request the Constitutional Court to carry out an inspection of the conformity of these three diplomas with the Fundamental Law. If he does, and the Constitutional Court gives reason to him, these three bills will automatically fail.
Two of these bills, on health and self-employed workers, were approved in a final global vote on 3 March, with the votes in favour from the PSD, BE, PCP, CDS-PP, PAN, PEV, Chega, Liberal Initiative (IL), and the deputies Joacine Katar Moreira and Cristina Rodrigues, in which PS voted against. The other, about families, saw one abstention from the PS and IL parties and the approval of the all remaining parties.