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Extra budget may pass with People’s Party help

July 14,2017
The opposition People’s Party decided to return to parliamentary activity Thursday and review a $10 billion supplementary budget bill, raising hopes in the Moon Jae-in government that the bill could be passed by Tuesday, the last day of July’s extraordinary session.

The People’s Party’s decision put an end to its boycott of all parliamentary activities as its relations with the ruling Democratic Party (DP) soured in recent weeks.

The turnaround came hours after the Blue House sent Im Jong-seok, presidential chief of staff, to express President Moon’s regrets over verbal brawls between ruling DP Chairwoman Choo Mi-ae and the People’s Party leadership.

“President Moon expressed his apology through chief of staff Im over a parliamentary gridlock sparked by DP chief Choo’s remark. And we respect Moon’s gesture,” said Choi Myung-ghil, the People’s Party spokesman at a press briefing after Im’s visit to the party leadership at the National Assembly.

Choi said his party would attend a review of the supplementary budget bill and the government reorganization act.

Thursday was considered a deadline for the government and the ruling party to pass the $10 billion extra budget bill during the ongoing regular session, which ends on Tuesday. It requires three to four days for the parliament’s Special Committee on Budget and Accounts to review the proposal and put it up for a vote.

For the Moon government and the ruling party, cooperation from the People’s Party is crucial in pushing the bill through the budget committee and putting it up for a vote at Tuesday’s plenary session.

Relations between the DP and the People’s Party deteriorated after DP chief Choo made harsh remarks about a dirty tricks scandal that has engulfed the People’s Party, sending its approvals into the single digits.

Criticizing an in-house probe into the matter by the People’s Party that concluded none of its party officials were implicated, Choo lashed out and said the party was trying to “cut the head” from the scandal, an apparent reference to shielding the party’s leadership.

Choo’s remark enraged top People’s Party officials and toughened their resolve against the supplementary budget bill.

The assembly’s budget committee has 50 lawmakers across party lines. To approve the bill and send it to a plenary session vote, at least half of 50 lawmakers must attend a vote.

A majority is required to pass the bill through the committee. Of the 50 committee members, 20 are DP members and seven are from the People’s Party.

While the People’s Party did not confirm it would endorse the supplementary budget bill, its decision to review it was seen as tacit support.

Once it reaches the floor, a majority of 299 lawmakers must attend the vote. Of the cast votes, a majority is required for passage. The DP has 120 lawmakers in the assembly.

The DP and the People’s Party could pass the bill even if all lawmakers from the two other opposition parties, the Liberty Korea Party and Bareun Party, vote nay. The two parties have 160 lawmakers.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]