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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lower House passes budget, draws protest


Staff writer

Over the outraged shouts of opposition lawmakers, the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc rammed the ¥14 trillion extra budget for fiscal 2009 and related bills through the Lower House Wednesday.

The enactment of the supplementary budget, the largest ever, is Prime Minister Taro Aso's key goal in the current ordinary Diet session. Immediately after passing the lower chamber, the budget was immediately sent to the opposition-controlled Upper House for deliberation.

In the face of strong protest from the opposition parties, led by the Democratic Party of Japan, it remains to be seen whether the budget and related bills will clear the Diet before the session ends June 3, forcing a possible extension.

Even without Upper House approval, the budget will be enacted on June 12. Article 60 of the Constitution gives the Lower House the power to override the upper chamber if it does not hold a vote within 30 days. The related bills, however, must be voted on again in the Lower House if the upper chamber rejects or refuses to vote on them for 60 days.

"There is a pile of issues that still need to be discussed about this extra budget," said DPJ lawmaker Hiroshi Kawauchi during a Lower House Budget Committee meeting. "Why are you voting on it?"

The ¥14 trillion budget includes ¥1.2 trillion for employment support, about ¥3 trillion for financial measures and ¥2 trillion for health and child-rearing aid.

The massive supplementary budget, however, is largely funded by a ¥10 trillion issuance of new state bonds, marking a record-breaking ¥44 trillion in total of issued bonds in fiscal 2009.

Aso brushed aside the opposition's demand for more time to debate, saying the budget had been deliberated on enough.

"I believe that the 20-some hours spent on deliberating the extra budget was enough," Aso told reporters Wednesday evening. But "there is still the Upper House, and I am hoping that it will be enacted as soon as possible."



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