Another consequential decision for the government

Having just finished the process of using Article 59 to pass the new anti-terror law, the Fukuda government is once again debating whether to go through the process of rushing a desired bill (the extension of the temporary gasoline tax) through the House of Representatives in order to leave the government time to “re-pass” the bill over DPJ and HC resistance in time for the new fiscal year.

The government has announced plans to submit the tax legislation that includes provisions for the gasoline tax on 23 January and will push for it to be debated in conjunction with the budget.

Introducing the bill on the 23rd gives the government a week to decide whether to end HR debate at month’s end and pass the bill, ensuring that the bill will be bounced back from the HC in time to be passed again before 1 April.

As reported by Sankei, there is debate between the governing coalition’s HR and HC caucuses over the timeline for passing the bill, with HC party leaders demanding that the bill be sent to the Upper House during January (an attitude reflective of the greater weight of rural votes in HC elections?). Chief Cabinet Secretary Machimura, however, disagrees, arguing that the HR needs sufficient time to debate the measure: “To the last, it’s the Diet’s, not the government’s decision.” Given the unlikelihood of a compromise being forged on this issue, is Machimura’s statement the first sign of the government’s changing course on this measure?

Whatever it means, the clock is ticking for the Fukuda government to make yet another decision that will have considerable influence on its durability and the coalition’s viability in a general election. The LDP will, however, raise the stakes of the debate by submitting a revised version of the tax measure that extends the temporary tax for ten years.

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