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Ruling party passes extra budget bill through parliamentary committees, sparking opposition protest

Politics 17:36 June 30, 2020

SEOUL, June 30 (Yonhap) -- The National Assembly's ruling party-controlled standing committees approved the latest COVID-19 response extra budget bill Tuesday in an unusually brief two-day process boycotted by the main opposition party.

The assembly's 16 standing committees, all chaired by lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Party, set out with their review of the special 35.3 trillion-won (US$29 billion) budget bill, the country's third COVID-19 response extra expenditure, Monday afternoon.

The bill, revised upward by nearly 3 trillion won by the standing committees, was submitted to the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts on Tuesday morning for final approval before it can be put up for a vote at a plenary session.

The DP, controlling 176 out of the 300 assembly seats, seeks to pass the bill through a full-floor National Assembly session by Friday.

Boycotting the lower committees' hasty review of the extra budget bill, however, the main opposition United Future Party (UFP) warned that it will continue its protest unless the DP delays the timetable for the bill's passage.

"It's beyond imagination that a (parliamentary) review of a massive budget bill worth 35 trillion won could be finished in only three days," Rep. Choi Hyung-du, the floor spokesman of the UFP, told reporters.

He indicated that his party is willing to formally join the extra budget's review process at the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts, as well as the final plenary session voting, if the DP defers the bill's final passage by one week to July 11.

United Future Party's floor spokesman Rep. Choi Hyung-du (Yonhap)

Another UFP lawmaker, Rep. Lee Jong-bae, also slammed the pending extra budget bill as being composed of projects that would only window dress dire employment data.

In a press conference, Lee said, "An analysis of the third extra budget bill showed that it contains projects to create short-term, manual jobs that could last for only five or six months," demanding a thorough review of the bill.

Opposition also came from the minor left-wing Justice Party, which has been largely in support of the ruling party so far.

Rep. Jang Hye-young of the Justice Party walked out of the review session by the Strategy and Finance Committee on Monday afternoon, accusing the committee of railroading the bill.

"I cannot agree with the committee that works only for the sake of the extra budget bill's passage, not a review of it," she said, quitting the session.

Separately, the UFP also plans to seek a ruling by the Constitutional Court over National Assembly Speaker Rep. Park Byeong-seug's unilateral distribution of committee seats to UFP members a day earlier.

As the UFP refused to submit the party's list of lawmakers recommended for each standing committee in protest of the DP's unilateral formation of the committees Monday, Park unilaterally distributed the UFP share of the seats to the party's lawmakers so that the DP could finish up with the committee formation.

UFP floor spokesman Choi accused Park of "abuse of power" and said UFP lawmakers offered to resign from their designated committee seats but Park is refusing the resignation offers.

Rep. Jang Hye-young of the Justice Party walks out of a review session by the Strategy and Finance Committee on June 29, 2020, in protest. (Yonhap)

pbr@yna.co.kr
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