Thursday, March 13, 2008

Nagata-chō's Other Game of Chicken

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

The DPJ-led House of Councillors' smacking down the Mutō Toshihirō nomination for Governor of the Bank of Japan yesterday does not end the mutual face-slapping over the management of the movement of legislation through the Diet.


In an unfortunate compromise worked out after the July 2007 election between the Democratic-led majority and the LDP-Kōmeitō ruling coalition, the Liberal Democratic Party received the chairmanship of the Budget Committee. That chairman, on orders from party central, is now tying up the passage of the budget and budget related bills. He is insisting that the government's versions of the budget and ancillary bills, including the infamous renewal of the gasoline levy for road building only, be first on the committee's schedule. The Democratic Party and its allies, eager to demonstrate their ability to promote legislation as well as kill it, are fighting to have a rival DPJ-crafted gasoline levy bill, one that would direct revenues into the general fund, debated first.

In the end, no budget-related bills may make it to a vote in the House of Councillors before the April 1 start of the new fiscal year, unless the DPJ-led majority can figure out a way of opening up an alternate route for legislation to escape via the Finance Committee, which has a Democrat as its chairman.

If no budget bills get through:

1) the gasoline levy disappears - vaya con Dios, arrivedercci, kwaheri - even for use in the general fund, and

2) the budget will go into effect without the legislation necessary to fully fund outlays.

This is high stakes chicken.

The LDP is throwing everything it can muster at bringing the DPJ to heal, on the one hand negotiating toward a deal of some kind regarding Mutō's candidacy...

(a) Why did the ruling coalition not negotiate before sending Mutō's appointment to the House of Councillors?

(b) Is it constitutional to submit a person's name as a candidate for a post twice in the same Diet session?

...and on the other with a railroading of the absurd 10-year, 59 trillion yen mid-term road construction plan through the construction committee of the House of Representatives.

Lawmaking is all about pride and position, it seems.

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