[Editorial] Budget bill taken hostage

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[Editorial] Budget bill taken hostage

The Democratic Party (DP) on Sunday unilaterally passed a no-confidence motion against Interior Minister Lee Sang-min to pin responsibility on him for the deadly crowd crush in Itaewon. The motion was approved by 182 votes from 183 lawmakers from the DP and the Justice Party. Members of the governing People Power Party (PPP) abstained from voting. The DP has now passed a no-confidence vote against a Cabinet member for the second time since the passage of an earlier motion to urge the dismissal of Foreign Minister Park Jin over alleged diplomatic fumbles involving President Yoon Suk-yeol. In reaction, all PPP members involved with a special probe of the Itaewon tragedy on the National Assembly level resigned from the probe and Yoon will most likely veto the motion for the resignation of his interior minister, a close ally.

Both parties must take responsibility for such alarming developments in the National Assembly. First of all, no government official has stepped down to take responsibility for the disaster in Itaewon even though it took 158 lives. In reaction, 89 family members of the victims set up a representative body to call for accountibility. But Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, a PPP lawmaker, went so far as to warn against the possibility of the family group and anti-government civic groups taking advantage of the tragedy for financial gains as in the case of the Sewol ferry tragedy.

The DP’s overbearing attitude is lamentable. What is more urgent between the motion and next year’s budget? The DP could deal with the motion after deliberating and passing budget proposals as it had agreed to. And yet, the party pressed ahead with the motion based on its super-majority in the legislature. The DP even threatened to pass a revision to its self-proposed budget bill for next year.

An extreme political fight took next year’s budget hostage. The budget bill could not be passed within the regular session of the legislature for the first time since the enactment of the National Assembly Advancement Act in 2014. The DP even refused arbitration by National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo in opposition to the government’s plan to lower the top corporate tax rate by three percentage points. The DP claimed that lowered corporate tax does not ensure more hiring.

Both parties must focus on passing next year’s budget after leaving a judgment on the unilateral passage of the motion to public opinion. Korea faces even harsher economic challenges next year from hostile conditions at home and abroad. If the two parties are engrossed in political battles, the damage will be felt by the people. They must pass the budget bill by Thursday, a deadline declared by the speaker.
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