Schedule is forced on Assembly by its speakerIn an attempt to end the total political standoff at the legislature, the head of the National Assembly yesterday created a timetable for lawmakers that includes a 20-day audit of the government and voting sessions for long-stalled bills.
National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa yesterday exercised his authority and created the schedule as the ruling and opposition parties failed once again to agree to get back to legislative activities. According to the speaker’s office, the decision was made based on the law governing the National Assembly.
The ruling Saenuri Party and the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy are in a deadlock over the writing of a special law to reinvestigate the sinking of the Sewol ferry in April and the government’s failed rescue efforts. Due to the logjam, no bills have been passed since May 2.
Chung scheduled a voting session on Sept. 26. Heads of the ruling and opposition parties are to give speeches on Sept. 29 and 30, while lawmakers will hold an audit of the government for 20 days starting Oct. 1. The president’s speech was scheduled for Oct. 22. Lawmakers will have hearings with the government from Oct. 23 until 28, and another voting session was scheduled for Oct. 31.
Announcing the schedule, Chung urged the ruling and opposition parties to start legislative activities by attending standing committees starting today.
“After the speaker was informed by Saenuri Rep. Lee One-koo, chairman of the National Assembly’s Steering Committee, that the ruling and opposition parties failed to agree on a legislative schedule again, Chung made the decision based on Article 76 of the National Assembly Act,” said Lee Su-won, a secretary to Speaker Chung.
Clause 3 of Article 76 of the act states that a consultation should be held with the House Steering Committee in preparing the agenda for a plenary session, but if no agreement is reached on the agenda, the speaker should determine it.
The committee held a meeting yesterday morning, but only Saenuri lawmakers attended it. After he was briefed by the situation, Chung went ahead and decided to use his power to set the legislative schedule.
Chung, however, said only three bills that are vital to keeping the National Assembly open will be voted on at the plenary session on Sept. 26. As of now, 91 bills are pending including 87 items already agreed on by the ruling and opposition lawmakers at lower committees.
Chung, a five-term lawmaker who left the Saenuri Party after he assumed the National Assembly speaker post, said he believed normalization of the National Assembly cannot be delayed any longer.
The Saenuri Party has been pressuring Chung to use his power to schedule a legislative session.
While the Saenuri Party welcomed Chung’s decision, the New Politics Alliance for Democracy criticized the move.
“The speaker and the ruling party are operating the National Assembly high-handedly and unilaterally while the largest opposition party is having trouble,” said Rep. Park Beom-kye, spokesman of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy.
The NPAD is in the middle of a severe power struggle and its interim leader, Park Young-sun, has threatened to leave the party.
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