Rules committee: A Republican commission on the primary/caucus process

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UPDATING this post continually.

A proposal has been brought to amend Rule 10. It would set up a commission that would report back to the RNC at some later date, and then the RNC would have to approve any changes proposed by a 2/3rds vote.

Morton Blackwell is speaking in opposition. Democrats, he says, have bitter struggles over rule changes by the DNC between conventions. Those fights are set in terms of principle, but they are always to advantage one candidate over another. He doesn't believe the decision should be entrusted to the RNC, even by a supermajority. "RNC meetings are, almost without exception, entirely scripted.... It is not a deliberative body."

A speaker from Rhode Island points out that it's the fear of the shadow of disagreement at the convention that has pushed the issue of reform further and further back.

The Arkansas committeeman points out that the RNC chairman would appoint nine of the 15 members of this committee. The RNC would not be able to amend the recommendation of the committee -- just an up-or-down vote to adopt by a 2/3rds majority.

Maine committeeman -- the Democrats will make their decisions "confident that we have tied our own hands and are unable to respond strategically."

Nebraska committeeman -- We don't need another committee to tell us we need to make a change. We've had changes proposed over and over again, only to arrive at the convention to have the nominee's representatives kill it. [That last happened in 2000.]

[There's a simple solution: Rules committee members could have the backbone to tell the nominee/president to get lost.]

This sets up a supercommittee that transfers the authority that you have been given by your states to make recommendations to the entire convention. Let's not follow the flip-flopping Democrats who tinker with the rules between meetings.

Clark Reed, Mississippi: "Thank God we don't have the flexibility the Democrats have."

Ohio committeeman: Has been an opponent of "flexibility" but supports this proposal. Commission would expire summer of 2010. Gives Republicans the flexibility to negotiate with the Democrats [whose commission runs through calendar year 2009]. 38 states have indicated they'll move to the first permitted primary date. The commission could bring all the stakeholders to the table.

Helen Blackwell, Virginia: "They didn't elect me to come here and pass off my authority to some other commission that hasn't even been appointed yet.... We need to roll up our sleeves and do our work."

Utah committeeman: In support. "We should not be afraid" to allow the duly elected RNC to conduct the affairs of the party.

[The problem with leaving this to the RNC is that the RNC is weighted toward weak Republican parties in small states, since every state has three members, regardless of the size of the state or the strength of the party.]

The motion passed by a show of hands, although the hands were not counted. One southern committeewoman indicated that there would be a minority report to the convention on this issue. McCain's operatives aren't likely to be happy with that outcome, as it means substantive debate during the convention. The signature of 28 members of the rules committee is required to move a minority report forward to the convention as a whole, where it will be debated alongside the majority report.

With that, the first section, Rules 1-11, is complete.

The next item would delete Rule 13(A)(2), the closest thing Republicans have to superdelegates. Morton Blackwell -- who reminds that he was Goldwater's youngest elected delegate in 1964 -- says his aim has always been to ensure the flow of power in the party remains from the bottom up, so he wants "all the national convention delegates to be elected contemporaneous to the presidential campaign."

The Indiana committeewoman reminds that the reason for this rule is to free up delegate seats for people other than RNC members. This is especially important for small delegations. The committeewoman from the Virgin Islands spoke in opposition for that reason. They have only six delegates other than the three

South Dakota committeeman says he felt uncomfortable being an automatic delegate, and received criticism in his state for qualifying automatically rather than going through the process like everyone else.

Missouri committeeman was the original proponent of the amendment in 2000. "The idea was to open up the opportunity for other grassroots workers to have the privilege and have the experience to come as delegates to the Republican National Convention."

Washington committeewoman points out that these are not "superdelegates" but are in fact bound by the rules of their respective states.

Mississippi committeeman Clark Reed reminds that the RNC committee members are elected four years before the convention. He says this is a slippery slope toward elected officials and other party officials being made automatic delegates.

Chairman stepped down from the chair to speak against the amendment. There hasn't been a slippery slope. By having RNC members as delegates, it frees up 168 seats for grassroots Republicans.

Blackwell's motion failed, but he's making another motion -- delete 13(A)(2) but increase the number of at-large delegates from 10 to 13. Chair ruled it out of order.

Now back to rule 15: A minor amendment passes to allow N.H. and S.C. to go on or after 3rd Tuesday in January rather than just "after."

Another amendment: Any delegate selection prior to the first Tuesday in March must be allocated proportionally.

Blackwell considers proportional representation a "pernicious" practice, considers imposing PR on early states an imposition. Rep. Backus agrees that we shouldn't dictate to the states.

Ryder of Tennessee: Purpose of proportionality amendment is to "extend the primary calendar by making it impossible for any state to be determinative of the outcome prior to March 1."

Rule defeated overwhelmingly.

Florida proposal would penalize early states by losing voting delegates but not delegates. Seconded by Michigan. Looks like it will fail.

There's a Maryland motion to allow states to use alternates to fill convention committee slots if no delegate of the proper sex is available. For example, suppose only two women delegates from a state are available to come to the convention city a week early to serve as committee members. Under current rules, the state's female seat third committee would go vacant. Under the proposed amendment, a female alternate could fill that spot. The motion passed, 45-33. The chairman noted that this might have the unintended consequence of reducing the pressure to elect women as delegates.

A proposal to amend rule 41 from Ron Kaufman of Massachusetts passed overwhelmingly. It went by very quickly, but it had something to do with when the rules committee could be consider constituted.

2:50 pm: Just had the final vote on the full committee report.

The committee will reconvene on September 1, River Center Ballroom A, during the opening session of the convention, roughly about 2:30 pm. Once the convention approves the permanent organization of the convention, the rules committee will be officially elected by the convention, and can officially vote to approve this rules recommendation.

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Newt Gingrich is challenging the plurality-takes-all allocation of Florida's 50 delegates to the Republican National Convention. Mitt Romney finished first in the January 31st primary with 46% of the vote, which means, according to rules adopted by the... Read More

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 29, 2008 1:20 PM.

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