Last week, the government created a firestorm by amending the criteria under which employers may be sanctioned for treating workers in a manner that constitutes slavery. Attorney General Raquel Dodge assailed the move, calling it unconstitutional and an affront to human dignity. The United Nations issued a statement expressing “profound concern” over the change, which it said threatened the progress Brazil has made to root out exploitive labor practices. On Wednesday, opposition lawmakers held up banners that said: “Saving Temer = slave labor.”
And over the weekend Mr. Temer announced that companies that had been fined for causing environmental damage could settle unpaid claims at a steep discount.
While he was seeking to woo dominant congressional blocs by championing those initiatives, analysts said, Mr. Temer in recent days held a marathon of meetings with individual lawmakers who sought commitments of federal money for their districts. Earmarks of discretionary spending shot up dramatically early this month as the vote loomed. The same thing happened during the weeks that preceded a similar vote in early August, when Congress set aside the first corruption case filed against Mr. Temer.
“The chronology of budget commitments clearly demonstrates that the earmarks are being used as bargaining chips,” said Gil Castello Branco, who leads the government watchdog group Contas Abertas.
Mr. Temer, a leader of the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, became president in August 2016 after his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff of the leftist Workers’ Party, was impeached for violating budget rules. As the political crisis set off by the impeachment process was starting to recede, Mr. Temer became embroiled over the summer in the sprawling corruption investigation known as Lava Jato, or Carwash.
Rodrigo Janot, the attorney general whose term ended in September, charged Mr. Temer with corruption in June, alleging that the president condoned the payment of a bribe to a jailed politician to keep him from implicating other colleagues in a kickback scheme.
Under Brazilian law, the president may be tried for criminal acts only if two thirds of the lower House of Congress refers a case to the country’s top court. Mr. Temer succeeded in blocking that case from moving forward with the August vote.
In mid-September, however, days before his term expired, Mr. Janot slapped Mr. Temer with a new set of charges. The second case depicted him as one of the masterminds of a long-running system of kickbacks involving government contracts.
Mr. Temer and his allies in Congress have called the cases an effort by Mr. Janot to criminalize politics. They have argued that lifting the cloud of suspicion from the presidential palace is imperative for the government to focus on mending an ailing economy that has recently begun showing signs of recovery.
“It’s a baseless accusation,” Representative Bonifácio de Andrada said Wednesday morning as the hearing got underway. “It’s a false accusation.”
Hours before the vote began, Mr. Temer was hospitalized for treatment of a urinary tract obstruction, setting off a flurry of speculation about his health. He was discharged around 8 p.m., as the session was proceeding.
Opposition lawmakers prevented the hearing from starting during the business day, staying outside the chamber to withhold the quorum needed to start the debate and vote. Several later explained that they wanted the session to take place in the evening so more Brazilians would be watching on television.
“Those who are with Temer here today will pay for it at the polls,” exclaimed Representative Weverton Rocha, who voted against the president and was referring to national elections that will be held next year.
Another critic of the president, Representative Alessandro Molon, argued that letting Mr. Temer off the hook meant abetting the culture of impunity that has made corruption endemic in Brazil.
“The criminal organization gets more powerful and continues committing crimes,” he said, criticizing the disbursement of funds to Temer allies at a time when public hospitals, schools and police departments are crippled by budget shortfalls.