Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers walked out of the legislature's Procedure Committee yesterday to protest the committee's refusal once again to place the arms procurement bill and confirmation of President Chen Shui-bian's (
Yesterday marked the last Procedure Committee meeting of the current legislative session. As the arms procurement plan was shut out by the committee, it stands no chance of passing the legislature during the current session which comes to a close on Monday.
Cashing in on its numerical edge, the opposition-dominated committee voted 18 to zero in favor of shelving 12 bills proposed by the DPP and Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) caucuses, including the special arms procurement budget, confirmation of Chen's selection of Control Yuan members and an anti-Chinese aggression bill.
Before the bills were put to a vote, the DPP failed to secure endorsements from its Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) counterparts during a five-minute cross-party negotiation granted by the committee chairwoman, PFP caucus whip Lee Yong-ping (
Ignoring DPP caucus whip Lai Ching-te's (賴清德) plea to extend the negotiation time, Lee engaged in a verbal argument with Lai and forced a hasty vote on the bills.
Lai led his colleagues out of the meeting, frustrated by the pan-blue camp's continuous efforts to boycott priority bills proposed by the pan-green camp.
"We condemn all opposition committee members, who put their personal and partisan interests before the interest of the nation," Lai said. "We hope the public see what they have done to the country and desert them."
Lai singled out Lee and Tseng Yung-chuan (
"Despite the progress we made with pan-blue members during the short cross-party talks and goodwill gestures extended by PFP Legislator Lin Yu-fang (
Lin told the committee before the voting that he would support the arms procurement bill if President Chen issued an apology for "smearing the reputations" of KMT Chairman Lien Chan (
"The key to the problem lies in the hands of the president," Lin said.
Lin, also a member of the legislature's Defense Committee, said that he thought it was necessary to buy the submarines, but said the the number of Patriot missile batteries and P-3C maritime patrol aircrafts was inappropriate.
Shuai, also a member of the Defense Committee, suggested the government consider earmarking the arms procurement budget of submarines and the initial payment for the purchase of the P-3Cs as a special budget, while allocating funds for the Patriot missiles as a regular budget.
"If we miss out on this chance to buy those weapons, I'm afraid we might have to spend more money to buy less efficient equipment," he said.
Lai said the DPP caucus does not rule out the possibility of earmarking part of the budget as a regular one, but the precondition is that the arms procurement bill has to pass the Procedure Committee and proceed to the Defense Committee for review.
Meanwhile, in a bid to push the passage of the arms procurement plan, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Douglas Paal reportedly will invite the Defense Committee's members to dinner next month, a Chinese-language newspaper report said.
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