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Interview: RNC committee votes down rule change with big impact on brokered convention

Following Thursday’s meeting of the Republican National Convention’s rules committee, a high-ranking member explained the importance of voting down the lone proposed change.

“Only one item was submitted,” said RNC CEO Jeff Larson, “and boy it was a good one.”

He explained the intent of the proposed rule change would be “to replace the House rules of order with Robert’s Rules of Order for the main convention.”

Uniquely equipped to explain the ramifications of this distinction, Larson continued:

“All the subcommittees, all the other business that goes on at the National Convention, happens under Robert’s Rules of Order. That’s the rules of order and the way we run meeting. It’s the parliamentary rules that everybody across the country that’s politically active is familiar with.”

During the convention this July in Cleveland, however, the proceedings will be conducted differently.

“Everything shifts and they start using the same rules of order as the U.S. House of Representatives,” Larson explained, “which is great if you’re a congressman — you may know those rules. But the rest of the country is not very much aware of the differences between those rules and the Robert’s Rules of Order.”

This switch can have a big impact, he added:

“Everyone who’s used to being very active in meetings, … now all of a sudden they’re off center, off base and unable to really effectively alter the order of business. It gives a tremendous amount of control to the RNC because they understand the rules. They know what’s going on. They can kind of steer the delegations on the floor around due to that unfamiliarity.”

A keen understanding of applicable parliamentary procedure, Larson noted, could be especially vital during this convention. He continued:

“Let’s say we start voting, and on the first ballot Donald Trump doesn’t win. The second ballot, lets say the numbers stay the same. Third ballot, fourth ballot, nothing’s moving. And someone gets the bright idea that, you know, neither one of these guys, it’s a deadlock, we need a third person. Well, under those old rules, how you [are required to] get a majority of eight states. You can’t do it. You can’t place a third person’s name on the nomination. But if you can suspend the rules, then you can do that. If 50 percent of the delegates under Robert’s rules want to suspend the rules and place some other person in the nomination, they can do it.”

Under House rules, however, such a move would require a two-thirds majority vote.

“Do you really think you will get that many of Donald Trump’s delegates or that many of Ted Cruz’s delegates to go along with a plan to replace those two with a third party?” he asked rhetorically. “That’s not going to happen, and that’s why these rules matter.”

The proposal ultimately failed, maintaining the higher threshold for changing the existing eight-state rule.

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