Time running out to pass second supplementary budget

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Diet affairs committee chairs of respective parties attend a meeting in Tokyo on Monday.

Following the latest resignation from the Cabinet of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, it has become almost impossible for the government to pass a second supplementary budget for fiscal 2022 before the end of this month as originally planned.

“The government will make every possible effort to pass a supplementary budget and other important bills as quickly as possible,” Kishida said to reporters Monday in response to a question about the possibility of an extension to the Diet session, which is scheduled to end on Dec. 10.

The government and ruling parties had planned to start deliberations on the supplementary budget on Monday and enter full-fledged discussions during a meeting of the House of Representatives Budget Committee on Tuesday.

However, deliberations are likely to be delayed until Friday following the successive resignations of two Cabinet members — Yasuhiro Hanashi, who stepped down as Justice Minister, and Minoru Terada who resigned as Internal Affairs and Communications Minister.

The ruling parties had also aimed to vote on a bill related to the pandemic response during a meeting of the House of Councillors’ Committee on Health, Welfare and Labor on Tuesday and pass it during an upper house plenary session on the same day. However, voting has been delayed until Thursday or later.

The government’s main focus in the latter half of the current Diet session is a bill to help people who have made excessively large donations to religious groups and to ban such donations.

The bill is being compiled in response to problems linked to the Unification Church. The government plans to submit the bill to the Diet on Dec. 2 but the timetable could be delayed following Terada’s resignation.

On Monday, Kishida had lunch with coalition party Komeito’s leader Natsuo Yamaguchi and asked for his cooperation.

“The government would like to prepare the bill as quickly as possible while listening to the opinions of the opposition and pass it swiftly during the current Diet session,” Kishida said to Yamaguchi, according to sources.

Kishida wants to mitigate criticism against the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, following revelations that many LDP lawmakers had ties with the group officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

However, with the end of the Diet session approaching, it is unclear whether the government will be able to pass the bill. A senior LDP lawmaker said the Diet session will need to be extended by about a week.

In mid-December when work to compile the fiscal 2023 budget will be in the final stages, the Cabinet is supposed to approve three defense documents, including the National Security Strategy.

“The Diet timetable is so tight we cannot waste a single day,” a source close to Kishida said.

Meanwhile, another member of Kishida’s Cabinet is embroiled in a scandal. It has been revealed that Reconstruction Minister Kenya Akiba did not declare expenses linked to his constituency office in an income tax return.

Opposition parties are likely to pursue the issue during such occasions as Budget Committee meetings.

“I hope the government does not get bogged down any more than it already is,” Shigeki Sato, chairman of Komeito’s Diet affairs committee, said to reporters Monday.

The resignations of three Cabinet members in about one month have emboldened the opposition, which aims to capitalize on the missteps in the Diet.

“The political timetable has been disrupted by Kishida’s slow decision-making, raising questions about his leadership abilities,” said Jun Azumi, chairman of the Diet Affairs Committee of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

“Diet deliberations have been suspended totally due to failures of the government and ruling parties,” said Takashi Endo, diet affairs committee chairman of the Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party).

Meanwhile, Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the Democratic Party for the People, said, “If there are other ministers planning to resign, perhaps all of them should just resign at once.”