Supplementary budget clears Lower House

by Kazuaki Nagata

The House of Representatives passed the ¥1.8 trillion supplementary budget bill Wednesday to finance an emergency economic stimulus package.

The bill is now set to be sent to the opposition-controlled Upper House, where its passage is expected early next week.

The Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force, is now pushing for passage of the extra budget, although the bill is sponsored by the government and Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling coalition.

DPJ members in the Lower House voted for the budget bill in an apparent bid to pressure Prime Minister Taro Aso, the LDP president, to call a general election while approval rates for his Cabinet and the LDP are dwindling.

Some reports have predicted the LDP would fall to defeat if the election were held now because the public is angry about millions of lost or falsified public pension records and the appointment of a gaffe-prone land minister who had to resign not even a week into his job.

Meanwhile, in an apparent effort to find a good reason to delay the dissolution of the Lower House, Aso made passing the extra budget his priority in light of the global economic crisis.

“If we foresee the possibility of a simultaneous global recession, Japan will need to take further actions,” said LDP Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda, the No. 2 man in the party after Aso.

Added actions may include compiling another supplementary budget, Hosoda said.

Aso has also said the bill for extending the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s refueling mission in the Indian Ocean should trump any domestic power games.

Deliberations on the bill could delay dissolution of the lower chamber.

According to the DPJ’s Diet affairs chief, Kenji Yamaoka, the ruling coalition has told the party that it wants the antiterrorism bill enacted during the extraordinary session. He also said the Diet should quickly wrap up deliberations on the bill, or give it one day in each chamber, Yamaoka said.

“This topic has been debated so much that the ‘fors’ and ‘againsts’ (from each party) are already clear,” he said.

The DPJ plans to vote against the bill.