|Lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Party picket as they blame the main opposition Liberty Korea Party for the paralysis of the National Assembly in Yeouido, western Seoul, on Monday. [NEWS1]|
The National Assembly missed the legal deadline to pass the budget bill Monday for the fifth year in a row amid a parliamentary standstill with the main opposition party’s threatening to filibuster 199 bills.
The ruling Democratic Party (DP) and main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) continued to blame each other for the paralysis of the National Assembly and a delay in a review of next year’s budget bill. Monday was the legal deadline to pass a record proposed budget of over 513 trillion won ($439 billion) for 2020. The National Assembly has failed to meet its legal deadline every year since 2015.
The LKP has been trying to block two fast-tracked bills on electoral and prosecutorial reform. Last Friday, the National Assembly failed to convene a plenary session where 199 bills were awaiting votes as the LKP threatened a filibuster until the regular parliamentary session ends on Dec. 10.
National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang issued an apology for the failure to pass next year’s budget bill on time Monday.
“Today is the legal deadline under our constitution for the 2020 budget bill to be passed, but we were not able to keep it,” said Moon said in a statement. “I express my regret to the people as the National Assembly speaker representing the legislative branch.”
He added that it was “embarrassing for the National Assembly to miss the legal deadline for five consecutive years” and that the reality is that it is “infringing upon the constitution” by doing so. Moon added, “Both ruling and opposition parties need to be reminded of the situation of people’s livelihoods and the economy. The budget bill has to be passed as soon as possible. I request your utmost effort to pass the budget bill even it requires staying up all night.”
Lee Hae-chan, chairman of the DP, on Monday called the LKP’s indiscriminate filibuster “a coup d’etat halting state functions.” He said he had been “extremely shocked” that the main opposition party went ahead and filed for a filibuster and accused the LKP of “holding hostage” bills dealing with people’s livelihoods.
Na Kyung-won, the floor leader of the LKP, on Monday again proposed to hold a one-point plenary session to vote on the so-called Kim Min-sik bill and criticized the DP for staying silent.
This bill was proposed after a car killed 9-year-old Kim Min-sik on Sept. 11 in front of his elementary school in Asan, South Chungcheong. The bill requires traffic lights and speed cameras in so-called school zone areas and calls for three-year jail sentences for drivers convicted of causing deadly crashes.
She also insisted that the Blue House and ruling party needs to withdraw the designation of the fast-tracked bills” and accused the DP of an “illegal blockade of the National Assembly for the third day in a row.”
Hwang Kyo-ahn, chairman of the LKP, also ended his hunger strike and resumed activities Monday. He convened a party Supreme Council meeting and accused the DP of “falsely instigating that the opposition party is blocking the bills on the budget and people’s livelihoods” and that the “filibuster was a legitimate right guaranteed by the National Assembly Act” and interfering with this was undemocratic.”
DP Floor Leader Lee In-young maintained Monday that the party reviewed the one-point session proposal but that the LKP needs to cease its filibuster first. Lee said during a meeting of his party’s Supreme Council, “Only if the LKP promises to officially withdraw its filibuster application and normalize the National Assembly will the DP discuss the budget bill with the LKP.”
Lee added, “I express my apology to the people that the budget bill will be late again this year” but said “such a situation was brought about by the LKP.”
DP lawmakers of the parliamentary Special Committee on Budget and Accounts also held a press conference on the same day blaming the delay on the review of the budget bill on the LKP for “paralyzing the National Assembly” and calling for the “unconditional withdrawal of the filibuster.”
Seeing difficulties reaching common ground with the LKP on electoral reform, the DP is discussing with the four minor opposition parties on how to proceed forward. President Moon Jae-in on Monday afternoon said on the National Assembly’s paralysis that “the situation is regrettable at a time where there should be legislative and budgetary fruition.”
Moon convened a meeting with senior Blue House aides for the first time in three weeks on Monday afternoon and had harsh words for the political wrangling taking precedent over matters related to the livelihoods of the people.
Moon was especially critical of the parliamentary standoff and the LKP filibuster putting on hold bills that are unrelated to politics including the Kim Min-sik bill. Moon said, “Bills that are necessary for the people cannot be degraded to become some bargaining tool linked with political agendas.”
“Today is the deadline for the National Assembly to pass the budget bill,” Moon noted. “However, the deadline had passed this year. The National Assembly which makes laws is repeatedly not keeping the law.”
BY SARAH KIM [[email protected]]
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