Ruling Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers and their Taiwan Solidarity Union allies yesterday finally got the arms package and other controversial bills onto the Legislature's agenda, a move that caught their opposition colleagues off guard and may prove to be short-lived.
Kuomintang and People First Party lawmakers, who were preoccupied with talks over the redrawing of legislative constituencies, vowed to reverse the decision by the Procedure Committee to review the arms procurement plan, party assets bill and Control Yuan nominations.
DPP legislative leader William Lai (賴清德), who is presiding over the Procedure Committee meeting this week, called a surprise vote on the proposal to send the bills to different committees for review and dispensed with discussions, over protests by his pan-blue colleagues.
"This is the first time we were able to place the important bills on the Legislature's agenda," a triumphant Lai said after the Procedure Committee voted 12 to 5 in favor of the motion.
There are 36 members in the special committee which is responsible for setting the agenda in the lawmaking body where opposition lawmakers control a slim majority in all 12 standing committees.
Seeking to assure their dominance, the KMT and PFP legislative caucuses have issued top mobilization orders asking their members to attend the full-house session Friday and return the bills to the Procedure Committee.
KMT legislative leader Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) voiced outrage at what he branded "the pan-green raid" which Tseng said promised only to heighten tensions between ruling and opposition lawmakers and failed to smooth the legislative process.
"By mounting the 'raid,' DPP and TSU lawmakers have ignited a confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties ... at a time when priority should be given to reviewing the government's budget for next year," Tseng said.
The arms bill seeks to ask the Legislature to approve a special budget of over NT$300 billion for the purchase of eight diesel-electric submarines and 12 P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft. The Ministry of Defense has agreed to shift the cost of six Patriot III anti-missile systems to annual budgets.
Tseng said his caucus and PFP allies have no choice but to take action to retaliate Friday against the pan-green action.
PFP legislative leader Huang Yih-jiau echoed the theme, saying he considered it ridiculous that the ruling party should have sought to end the legislative stalemate through political stunts, instead of rational discussions.
Besides the military procurement plan, the pan-green lawmakers also voted to invite President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to address the Legislature and to review a bill to allow the government to probe and confiscate ill-gotten properties owned by political parties.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) painted "the pan-green victory" as meaningless, if not harmful, as pan-blue lawmakers are likely to undo the Procedure Committee's decision as soon as possible. Wang, one of the few politicians who manage to maintain cross-party friendship, suggested all legislative caucuses should try to iron out their differences on policy bills through rational dialogue.
KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) branded the pan-green tactics as a dishonorable action for which he said the ruling party would pay a dear price. Ma is slated to meet his PFP counterpart James Soong (宋楚瑜) for the second time Thursday to discuss the arms package and other major public issues including the Cabinet reshuffle.
Soong appeared to be very unhappy after learning of the pan-green strategy. He attributed it partly to what he called the KMT's ill-advised nominating policy for the recent three-in-one elections. Three KMT lawmakers joined the elections for county magistrate and won, thus weakening the pan-blue edge in the Legislature, Soong noted.