National Assembly Act revision sent

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National Assembly Act revision sent

The National Assembly on Monday sent a revision on the law governing the legislature that would allow lawmakers to demand the government amend certain kinds of administrative legislation, a contentious change that President Park Geun-hye has vowed to veto.

National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa sent the bill, which was approved May 29 and slightly modified on Monday, to the Park administration at 6:05 p.m.

“I will authorize the bill to be sent to the government this afternoon,” Chung told the floor leaders of the ruling Saenuri Party and the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) earlier on Monday.

He also stressed that the bill, which was fine-tuned at the last minute according to his proposal, contained no clauses that would prompt President Park to veto it.

“It was my intention to have enough deliberation and discussion with the ruling and opposition parties in order to remove any possibility of unconstitutionality following the government’s concerns,” he said during a meeting with Saenuri Rep. Yoo Seong-min and NPAD Rep. Lee Jong-kul. “The government will seriously consider our efforts, and I believe there won’t be any unnecessary conflict between the legislature and the administration.”

Rep. Yoo, the floor leader of the ruling party, supported the decision. “Now that the revision was sent to the government, I will discuss it [with the Blue House],” he said. “The National Assembly has worked hard, and I hope there will be no conflict with the government.”

President Park has 15 days to decide whether to veto the bill once it arrives at the government. Sources at the Blue House said Park will veto the bill anyway.

The political standoff between the Park administration and the National Assembly started at the end of last month after the revision to the National Assembly Act was passed along with dozens of other bills, including the plan to overhaul the money-losing pension program for civil servants.

Park initially made clear her opposition to the Assembly revision, while senior officials from the Blue House said the president would veto the bill, calling it unconstitutional.

The controversy surrounding the revision goes back to Park’s ambitious plan to reform the civil servant pension program.

The ruling party conceded and agreed to revise the National Assembly Act, which was intended to accommodate the main opposition NPAD’s demand to change the enforcement decree for the special law governing the investigation into the sinking of the Sewol ferry in April 2014.

The enforcement decree calls for a government official to manage a special committee investigating the accident. The NPAD wanted a civilian expert.

As a result, both the pension reform bill and the National Assembly Act revision bill were passed on May 29.

The revision strengthened the National Assembly’s authority to demand a change in administrative legislation, such as an enforcement decree. With the prospect of a presidential veto looming, Chung proposed a compromise to the ruling and opposition parties last week that would soften the wording of the revision so that it would be less compulsory.

The Assembly speaker proposed the revision to allow the National Assembly “to make a request” to the government to change a piece of administrative legislation, rather than “demand” it. The government would then “consider” the proposed change and report back to the legislature, rather than “act upon” it.

Earlier on Monday, NPAD lawmakers called upon Rep. Lee, their floor leader, to decide upon the issue.

“We will accept Chung’s compromise,” Lee said. “We want to end the debate surrounding the parts [President Park] hinted she would veto and to end the political strife against the government via bipartisan efforts.”

Lee added that the decision was intended to address livelihood issues pending at the National Assembly, including recent efforts to combat the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome.

Still, Lee attached some conditions. “Allowing the government to consider the proposed change was dropped during the talks with Chung,” Lee said. “We have asked the National Assembly speaker to make efforts to persuade the president not to veto the bill. If she does, the speaker must make efforts to push forward the National Assembly’s intent by hosting a revote to pass it a second time.”

The opposition floor leader added that Chung already promised he would do so.

When the National Assembly approved the revision, 211 lawmakers, more than two-thirds of the 298 sitting members in the legislature, approved it. A two-thirds vote can overturn a presidential veto.

If Park vetoes the revision, the situation becomes more complicated for Chung and the ruling Saenuri Party, which controls 160 seats. After the government receives the revision bill from the National Assembly, Park has 15 days to decide whether to veto it.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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