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Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008
Overriding vote passes '07 extra budget
By MASAMI ITO and SETSUKO KAMIYA
The Lower House on Wednesday overrode the Upper House's rejection of a ¥1.78 trillion supplementary budget for fiscal 2007 and rammed it through the Diet, the first such move pertaining to an extra budget in 15 years.
The Upper House, which is controlled by the opposition, had rejected the extra budget earlier in the day. But the more powerful Lower House, controlled by the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling coalition, used its power under Article 60 of the Constitution to pass it anyway.
Article 60 says that if the two chambers can't agree over the budget, the Lower House decision prevails.
Upper House member Harunobu Yonenaga of the Democratic Party of Japan slammed the ruling bloc's heavy-handed tactics.
"The existence of the Upper House is now in danger," Yonenaga said. "Steamrolling (legislation) . . . is an outrageous act based on the force of numbers."
The last time a supplementary budget was approved over the Upper House's wishes was in 1993, when Kiichi Miyazawa was prime minister.
The ¥1.78 trillion extra budget covers emergency measures, including disaster relief, subsidies for people and small businesses suffering from climbing oil prices, and provisional support for returning Japanese who had been abandoned as children in China at the end of the war.DPJ and other lawmakers opposed the budget because it includes nonemergency measures that should have been included in the main budget, including plans to revitalize farming.
"It is nothing but a way to avoid a budget ceiling by using the supplementary budget to cut down on annual expenditures," Toshiro Tomochika, an independent, told the Upper House budget committee.
With the extra budget secured, the Lower House will now move on to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's main task for this session — passing the fiscal 2008 budget and a contentious tax bill aimed at extending extra-high rates on gasoline and other auto-related taxes for another 10 years.
With gasoline prices rising drastically, the DPJ strongly opposes the extension and wants the special rates abolished.