Brazil government confident of lower house pension reform vote before July 18 recess

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro speaks during a handover ceremony for Government Secretary Jorge Antonio de Oliveira Francisco at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's government expects the lower house of Congress to vote on pension reform before lawmakers break for recess on July 18, presidential spokesman Otavio Rego Barros said on Tuesday.

The chances of the lower house voting before its two-week recess are "very positive," he told reporters in Brasilia, adding that President Jair Bolsonaro is to propose changes to police pensions, including a minimum retirement age of 55 for new officers.

According to Barros, the special committee in Congress analyzing the government's signature economic reform bill will vote on it this week, before passing it on to the lower house plenary for a full vote.

On Monday, congresswoman Joice Hasselmann, the government's leader in the lower house, said pension reform could even go to a full vote in the lower house as early as next week.

But Marcelo Ramos, the special committee's chairman, on Monday warned the government not to demand too many changes to the amended bill if it wants to secure the 308 lower house votes needed to pass it.

"What the government cannot do is force the issue, otherwise it will not get the votes. A good report is one that gets the votes," Ramos said on Monday. "The government only has six votes on the committee, so it shouldn't think it can impose its will with just six votes."

The government's bill to overhaul the social security system, shore up public finances and stimulate investment and economic growth aims to save the public purse 1.237 trillion reais ($323 billion) over the next decade.

The special committee made some key amendments to the draft bill earlier this month which diluted the expected savings to 914 billion reais, and infuriated Economy Minister Paulo Guedes.

(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Writing by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)