Once again without a single non-Communist member of the opposition in the chamber, the LDP-New Komeitō ruling coalition has used its supermajority in the House of Representatives to vote for a revival of the temporary gasoline levy.
One cannot imagine that the scenes of gasoline distributorships shutting down mid-afternoon in response to the vote in the House of Representatives will play too well on the late night, non-NHK networks--nor that the new, higher prices tomorrow will be greeted with cheers from the public.
So where do we go from here?
Not to censure, at least not immediately.
Ozawa Ichirō has moved his marker regarding the possibility of the House of Councillors censuring the Prime Minister. Rather than censure the PM for using an Article 59 override to force a reapplication of the temporary gasoline levy, Ozawa will be "keeping an eye on the road construction bill" -- i.e., the 10 year, 59 trillion yen, truly grotesque testing of the public's patience that is the next bill up for the override treatment.
The PM has promised to put the revenues from the gasoline tax go into the general fund as of next year. Unfortunately, the PM's wish is not included in the current language of the road construction bill.
This would seem to create an interesting procedural mess.
Opening up the road construction bill and rewriting it in joint committee would be one solution. Unfortunately, convening an interparliamentary committee it is not possible without at least a sister bill having been passed by the House of Councillors.
That has not happened. It will not happen.
Alteration of the legislation already passed by the House of Representatives will be, in terms of the rules, the submission of a brand new bill.
However, unless the House of Representatives votes down its own 10 year, 59 trillion bill first, the House of Representatives will be on record--as far as I can tell--as having sent to the House of Councillors two mutually contradictory bills on a single subject.
Not exactly a place where anyone wants to be.
Submitting a bill reflecting the Prime Minister's plan to move revenues to the general fund--i.e., a brand new bill--will also start the 60 day override clock all over again.
Now a clock starting in the first week of May would set the Diet up for an override in early July...which is something the PM's people and the ruling coalition would probably want to avoid given that would put a loud battle about an incredibly important bill right smack dab in the middle of the Toyako Summit--the most historic, important and environmentally correct summit ever™!
As for what the DPJ's response to today's events will be, it looks like going forward with the threatened censure motion will be a tough call. It is not necessarily significant that the PM can ignore the censure motion--the point all the newspapers harp on. The core issue is that a censure motion could be perceived as a waste of time.
Not showing up for votes--boycotting the Diet--is perfectly acceptable political theater with a long and illustrious history. Not showing up challenges the ruling party to push forward legislation using the rules of the Diet and its majority.
A censure motion, however, will be under the operational control of the opposition. The Democratic Party House of Councillors Diet Measures Chairman will have to go to Speaker Eda Satsuki and the other opposition parties to instigate the assembling of a quorum of the House of Councillors for an act that has 1) no effect as law and 2) no basis in law.
The calendar of the House of Councillors is the DPJ's ball of string--to play with or not depending on the party's reading of the mood of a public pissed off at new taxes and automatic deductions.
The public may not be in the mood for meaningless gestures--expecially ones engaged in by those living off the public purse.
Tricky thing, the public mood, what?