Thursday, August 15, 2013

In Answer to a Nagging Question About the RNC Delegate Selection Rules

In view of the fact that Morton Blackwell does not appear to be introducing in Boston the same series of amendments to the RNC rules that he issued at the spring meeting in LA, this perhaps is not necessary.

But FHQ did get an answer to one of the questions that came out of the RNC spring meeting back in April. First, the context:

If you will recall, the Virginia committeeman submitted and then argued for a series of amendments to the RNC delegate selection rules at the LA meeting that would basically have restored the overall rules to the version that governed the 2012 Republican presidential nomination process. Those changes would have reversed some of the more controversial changes made at the Tampa convention that did not sit well with those in the Paul/libertarian/grassroots faction of the Republican Party.

However, some of those revisions called for changes to rules outside of those the RNC is permitted -- by rule -- from altering outside of conventions. One of the rules added in Tampa -- Rule 12 -- gave the RNC the power to make changes to the delegate selection rules, but only the ones not specifically dealing with the ways in which the subsequent convention would be conducted. The bottom line is that the RNC can change Rules 1-11 and Rules 13-25. Everything else -- including Rule 12 (which was controversial in its own right) -- is off limits.

Yet, Blackwell's long list of rules revisions at the spring RNC meeting stretched beyond those rules indicated in Rule 12. Rule 41, for instance, was altered in Tampa. The former Rule 40 -- one higher for 2016 because of the addition of Rule 12 -- stated that for a candidate to have his or her name placed in nomination at the convention, said candidate had to control the delegations from at least five states. The new Rule 41 raised that threshold from five to eight states. Again, that was something that stuck in the craw of those in the grassroots faction of the party; something Blackwell sought to change back in LA for 2016.

How, though, can a rule outside of the purview of Rule 12 be amended and how would that be dealt with in the context of all the other rules changes in the Blackwell series? This was something that FHQ and Zeke Miller at Time (and perhaps Politico's James Hohmann as well) went back and forth about via Twitter during the Rules Committee portion of the spring meeting. Does the fact that the amendment contains changes to rules not indicated in Rule 12 void the whole set of revisions? Is their inclusion ignored and only the rules included in Rule 12 changed as a result of the amendment? In April that was unknown.

FHQ fell more toward the latter camp, but the true answer -- after some guidance from the RNC -- is a bit more nuanced. If Blackwell were to have brought back up in Boston the same LA amendment -- reversing the Tampa changes -- and it had passed with a majority of the Rules Committee and three-quarters of the full RNC, then here is what would happen:

The rules able to be changed would be changed immediately as Rule 12 indicates. However, any rule outside of the parameters of Rule 12 included in an amendment -- yet passed by the committee and RNC -- would be sent to the next convention as a recommended change to be dealt with in that context.

As FHQ said at the outset, given that Morton Blackwell has scaled back his amendments from LA for the Boston meeting, the point seems to be moot.

But if it comes up at a future RNC meeting, this is an FYI.

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