• Senate committee approves impeachment motion by 15-5 votes
  • Full Senate expected to vote on impeachment on May 11

Brazilian senators pushed President Dilma Rousseff a step closer to being ousted from office as a special committee decided on Friday there are legal grounds to impeach her.

With a tally of 15 against 5, the Senate committee backed a report saying there is enough evidence to try Rousseff on allegations she used illegal financing to manage the federal budget. The committee president, Senator Raimundo Lira, abstained from voting after saying he would only cast a ballot to break a tie. The lower house last month agreed to send the impeachment motion to the upper chamber by an overwhelming majority.

While the committee vote is just a recommendation and isn’t binding, it gives the opposition momentum heading into a full Senate vote expected on May 11. If legislators decide against her that day with a simple majority -- as surveys by leading newspapers suggest they will -- she must step down for as long as 180 days and stand trial. The Senate then would need support from two-thirds of its 81 members to permanently remove her from office.

“The committee vote pretty much confirms what people were expecting: this will end with Rousseff’s removal from office,” said Paulo Calmon, a political science professor at the University of Brasilia.

Rousseff has pledged repeatedly to fight for her mandate. She says there is no legal justification for her ouster, and likens efforts to oust her to a bloodless coup. Senator Humberto Costa, a member of her Workers’ Party, said Friday the government will appeal the impeachment process in the Supreme Court before the May 11 vote.

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