RNC Convention - David Asp's Report on Rules Committee

David Asp was a delegate to the Republican National Convention for CD3. Here are few excerpts from the daily notes he sent from Cleveland, detailing his work on the Rules Committee.

MONDAY, JULY 18

Welcome to my first convention update from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, which begins today.  When I was asking for your vote to be a convention delegate in April, I pledged to provide daily updates from the convention.  This update provides my perspective on the rules committee, and – in particular – the “conscience clause,” which has received significant attention during the weeks leading up to the Convention.

Background

The Republican National Committee (“RNC”) has three representatives from each state – the party chair, national committeeman, and national committeewoman.   As I’ve focused on learning more about how the RNC operates during the last few weeks, I’ve come to appreciate the work of our three RNC representatives – Chair Keith Downey, Chris Tiedeman, and Janet Beihoffer.  The RNC has its own standing rules committee, and Janet ably represents Minnesota on that committee.  

The Republican National Convention (“the Convention”) itself, has its own rules committee composed of one female and one male from each state and territory represented at the Convention.  Our Minnesota delegation elected representatives to the Convention committee after the state convention in May.  I was elected as the male representative, and Rep. Cindy Pugh was elected as the female representative  

Every four years, the Convention adopts standing rules that govern the operation of the RNC.  In 2012, the convention passed a rule allowing the RNC to change certain rules between conventions, but those changes are subject to review by the Convention committee and, ultimately, the Convention itself.  So our job on the Convention committee was to pass rules governing the party (as well as rules for the convention itself), and send those to the full Convention for consideration.  The rules committee will meet again briefly today, and -- after that -- the entire Convention will consider the rules.

The Conscience Clause

The Convention committee considered several amendments relating to whether Convention delegates should be bound to vote for a presidential candidate based on the results of primaries and caucuses in their states.  

Kendal Unruh of Colorado proposed the “conscience clause,” which recognized “the right of each delegate and alternate delegate to vote their conscience on all matters shall not be infringed or impaired by and state party rule, state law, ruling by the national convention chair of any other method.”

The “conscience clause” would have created an exception to other RNC rules that bind delegates to vote for a particular candidate at the national convention based on the results of primaries and caucuses in their states.  Many delegates argued for the conscience clause as a way to nominate someone other than Donald Trump for president, but there also has been ongoing debate at the RNC about whether delegates should be bound or even whether delegates actually were bound under RNC rules.  You can read more about that debate in these articles at The Hill website:  “All Delegates are Unbound” here and  “GOP Delegates are Legitimately Bound, Deal With It” here.    

 The delegates to the Rules committee rejected the conscience clause, adopting instead rules that bind delegates according to primary and caucus results.  There was virtually no debate about the conscience clause because, immediately after the clause was introduced, a delegate opposing the clause moved the previous question to end debate.  The motion passed, and then the clause itself was defeated on a voice vote.  Because the voice vote was clear, the chair rejected requests for a standing vote. 

I voted with the minority in support of the conscience clause, primarily because I believe delegates to the national convention should be free to register their support or opposition to the party’s nominee. If a delegate believes that Mr. Trump -- or any other candidate -- is not the best candidate for our party, I believe that delegate should be able to register opposition at the Convention.  But I also note that the conscience clause would allow Mr. Trump’s supporters to demonstrate that their vote reflects their genuine opinion that he should represent our party.   Allowing delegates to express their actual opinions during the Convention – even if that opinion is contrary to the nominee – contributes to a sense of fairness that is vital to our party.  

It is unlikely the conscience clause will reach a floor vote today because that would require twenty-eight members of the Convention committee to sign a minority report, and I do not believe there are twenty-eight votes for the clause on the committee.    

The committee considered several other rules issues, which I expect to come up again today (Monday).

 Final Rules Update

The convention rules committee met briefly after the convention officially convened Monday and approved the rules for consideration to the full convention.  There was a movement to call for a roll call vote on the rules (as opposed to a traditional voice vote).   To receive a roll call, the majority of delegates from seven states needed to request it.  Initially, a majority of delegates from Minnesota requested a roll call vote along with a majority of delegates from eight other states.   During the course of the convention, several Minnesota delegates withdrew their request for a roll call.  Two other states also had delegates withdraw their support for a roll call vote.  Accordingly, because only six states requested a roll call, the rules were approved on a voice vote.     

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