I don’t know how the President of the Lower House Yōhei Kōno (LDP), in consultation with his Upper House counterpart Satsuki Eda (DPJ) managed it － the media will no doubt come out with their backstories later － but he has convinced the ruling coalition to withdraw its 60-day extension bill that was going to be passed from the Lower House to the Upper House within the month, setting the stage for a supermajority override and would have enabled the gasoline tax surcharges to be extended without a hiatus. The gist of the agreement according to the most detailed online source on this point, the Asahi:
(UPDATED to full text printed in January 31 hardcopy Yomiuri)
1) In examining the full budget (FY2008 budget proposal) and revenue legislative bills (such as bills concerning taxation), we shall reach a certain conclusion within this fiscal year after conducting thorough deliberations including public hearings and question and answer sessions of witnesses.
2) The legislative body shall amend any items over which agreement is reached between the political parties with regard to tax law through deliberations in the Diet.
3) The so-called safety net (bridge) legislative bill (interim bill) shall be withdrawn where a clear agreement has been reached with regard to items 1) and 2) between the government parties and opposition parties under the auspices of the two Presidents [of the Houses].
And they’ve agreed.
There’s enough ambiguity in the wording to enable either side to walk out of the deal under extreme circumstances. Still, it looks like a process along the lines of what I had envisioned, hoped for, really, is going to unfold, with a commitment to finish up by the end of fiscal year 2007. The DPJ commitment is somewhat squishy, but it is a commitment. And the deal is vested with the authority of the two House Presidents. All in all, it has been a good day for the political process in Japan.