What’s the surest way to prevent Donald Trump’s opponents from re-writing the GOP’s rules to deny him the nomination at next month’s convention? According to a new proposal from Republican National Committee member Solomon Yue, the answer is simple: Don’t allow any new rules adopted in Cleveland to take effect until the 2020 convention.
The GOP’s rule-writing process is relatively straightforward: Every fourth summer, in the days prior to the party convention, an elected body known as the Convention Committee on Rules and Order of Business approves a package of rules. Once ratified by a majority of delegates on the floor, this language governs the convention and, for the next four years, the party.
Between conventions, the rulebook is reviewed by the RNC’s Standing Committee on Rules, which debates changes and approves recommendations to be taken up by the next Convention Committee on Rules and Order of Business. (The groups are separate but members overlap; call them the Convention Rules Committee and the RNC Rules Committee.) The Convention Rules Committee is the greater authority: It votes on the RNC’s recommendations, but also debates additional new amendments offered by its own membership. In other words, the Convention Rules Committee can approve — and put forth for ratification — language that was never recommended by the RNC Rules Committee.
Yue is a member of both committees — and he wants to fundamentally alter this process, both to protect Trump and prevent chaos in Cleveland.
Under his proposal, submitted to the party’s legal department on Tuesday, the 2016 convention would be governed only by the language approved by the RNC Rules Committee. Members of the Convention Rules Committee would still be authorized to introduce, vote on, and approve additional changes, but those wouldn’t be implemented until Trump’s coronation in Cleveland is complete – meaning they would govern the 2020 convention, not this one.
On the final page of the RNC rulebook, Rule No. 42 — under the heading “Temporary Rules” — reads:
“Upon the adoption of the report of the Convention Committee on Rules and Order of Business, Rule Nos. 26-42 shall constitute the Standing Rules for this convention and the temporary rules for the next convention.”
Yue’s proposal would replace that language entirely. Under a new heading – “Effective Date of Rules” — it would read:
“The Rules adopted by the 2016 Convention, as amended under Rule 12, shall constitute the Rules of the Republican National Committee and the 2016 National Convention. Any amendments herein to these rules, as adopted by the 2016 National Convention, shall take effect at the adjournment of the 2016 National Convention and constitute the Rules for the Republican National Committee and the temporary Rules of the 2020 National Convention.”
Such a drastic modification to the party’s rule-making process seems unlikely, especially at this late stage. But with GOP officials increasingly fearing an ugly anti-Trump rebellion in Cleveland — starting in the Convention Rules Committee, where amendments will be offered to unbind delegates or allow them to vote their conscience – Yue’s proposal could offer a preemptive solution.
He has little time to sell the idea, however, and there’s only one chance to get it approved. The RNC Rules Committee meets in Cleveland on July 12 to finalize its package of recommendations, before handing them over to the Convention Rules Committee.
This isn’t Yue’s first attempt to introduce radical change to the Republican convention. Shortly before the RNC’s Spring Meeting in late April, he gained headlines by introducing a proposal that would require the convention floor to operate under Robert’s Rules of Order rather than under the procedures that administer the U.S. House of Representatives. The idea drew widespread criticism from his colleagues — who feared the floor proceedings would become unruly — and was ultimately defeated in a lopsided vote of the RNC Rules Committee.
Interestingly, whereas Yue’s previous idea was attacked for inviting chaos in Cleveland, this proposal seeks to head it off.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect revised language in Yue’s proposal.