After more than 70 lawmakers from the Democratic Party of Japan rejected or abstained from voting on the contentious bill to hike the sales tax, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and other DPJ executives began internal discussions Wednesday on how to punish the dissenters, mainly kingpin Ichiro Ozawa and his followers.

The DPJ , however, is divided on the severity of the penalties and it is unclear how long it will take the executives to reach a conclusion.

The Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito are meanwhile threatening not to cooperate with deliberations on the tax hike in the Upper House if the DPJ imposes a light punishment on Ozawa and his followers, putting Noda between a rock and a hard place.