Opposition outrage after DPP bypasses committee stage for budget bill

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) sparked outrage among opposition figures Tuesday for bypassing a series of committee reviews and forwarding the central government's 2022 budget to a second reading in the Legislature.

In what opposition lawmakers described as an unprecedented disregard for legislative procedures, the DPP caucus used its majority to push through a 55-26 vote in favor of immediately moving the NT$2.2391 trillion (US$80.14 billion) 2022 budget bill past the current committee stage.

In his party's defense, DPP Legislator Chao Tien-lin (???) argued that his fellow legislators had been given no choice but to move directly to the penultimate approval stage, as the delayed bill is required by the Budget Act to clear the Legislature before the end of the calendar year.

The bill will now be discussed at inter-party negotiations, where, barring an agreement among the party caucuses to return to the committee stage, it will proceed to a second reading after one month.

Under the standard procedures, different parts of a budget bill are referred to relevant committees for review.

Individual government agencies then report their budget proposals to committee members and field questions from lawmakers.

Once a budget plan is approved by all relevant committees, the bill then proceeds to the legislative floor for a second reading, before moving on to a third reading, in which only textual errors in a bill will be changed.

The DPP's Chao accused the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) of trying to embargo the budget review, saying that his party's decision to push through the bill was needed for "the progress of the nation's economy."

However, at a press conference Wednesday, KMT Legislator Fai Hrong-tai (???) described the situation as unprecedented in Taiwan, saying that no one had ever dared to deprive lawmakers of their right to review the government's budget plans.

Fai said President Tsai Ing-wen (???) and Ker Chien-ming (???), head of the DPP legislative caucus, had "marred democracy" by bypassing the committee stage.

KMT Legislator Tseng Ming-chung (???) said the DPP had lied about its rationalization for the move, pointing out that all budget bills from 2008 to 2021 had cleared the Legislature within a similar timeframe by late January.

KMT Legislator Lin Wei-chou (???) echoed Tseng's views, saying the DPP's decision to move the budget bill through to the second reading had shown its disrespect for the committees.

He added that in the past, only bills that had gained bipartisan consensus or that were urgent would be referred to the second reading directly without going through committee review.

At a separate press conference, Legislator Chen Jiau-hua (???), who also chairs the New Power Party (NPP), said there was no legitimate reason for the DPP to skip the committee review process as the term of the current Legislature could be extended.

Chen said it was still possible for the bill to clear the legislative process ahead of the Lunar New Year at the end of January if all parties cooperated.

NPP Legislator Chiu Hsien-chih (???) also condemned the DPP for bypassing the committee review. However, he also criticized the KMT for having held up the review process in different committees.

The KMT has said such moves were a part of its effort to protest against the DPP for using government resources to promote votes in favor of its positions in a series of referendums that were held on Dec. 18.

Meanwhile, Taiwan People's Party legislator Tsai Pi-ru (???) said Wednesday her party would propose at a party negotiation session on Thursday that the bill be returned to the committee review stage.

Defending the ruling party, Premier Su Tseng-chang (???) told reporters Wednesday that KMT lawmakers had been "irrational and irresponsible" for having delayed the budget review.

Of the proposed NT$2.2621 trillion in spending, the largest portion will go to social welfare, followed by education, cultural and science projects, as well as national defense.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel