Trump backers head off effort to force roll call vote at Republican convention
Over angry and prolonged objections from anti-Donald Trump forces, Republican Party leaders approved rules for their national convention on Monday and rejected a demand for a state-by-state roll call vote, a discordant start to a gathering designed to project unity.
Despite demands from social conservatives and other Trump foes for a roll call, hundreds of socially conservative delegates opposed to nominating Trump protested noisily after the convention's presiding officer, Arkansas GOP Rep. Steve Womack, abruptly put the rules to a vote and declared them approved by voice.
"Call the roll, call the roll," opponents shouted. Practically drowning them out were chants of "USA, USA" by Trump supporters and party loyalists.
Minutes later, Womack had the convention vote by voice again, with both sides shouting their votes lustily.
The voice votes occurred even though earlier in the afternoon, dissident delegates submitted petitions from a majority of delegates from what they said were at least nine states -- seemingly sufficient to force a roll call vote under party rules.
GOP leaders have wanted to avoid that vote, which was likely to lose but they feared would be embarrassing and highlight party divisions.
Womack said some delegates had withdrawn their signatures and that petitions from three of those states no longer qualified. That left the insurgents short of the seven states needed by GOP rule to force a roll call.
The sudden and tumultuous approval of the rules was the latest example of the recent alliance between the Trump campaign and top officials of the Republican National Committee. Despite wary and even hostile relations early on, the two forces have a mutual interest in healing party divisions and making Trump as competitive as possible for his expected fall matchup against the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.
"This is the best possible outcome for us," said Ron Kaufman, a GOP leader from Massachusetts who has been in the middle of the rules fight. "The never Trump movement never was."
Others were furious as chaos ensued on the convention floor.
Ken Cucinelli, a Virginia delegate, ripped off his credentials in protest.
Carol Hanson, an Iowa delegate, said some members of the state delegation left just before the vote and others walked out as soon as the roll call was denied.
"Some of them were disgusted," she said.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said in a brief interview he was glad that most of his state's delegation did not walk out because it was critical to avoid anything that would jeopardize the state's first in the nation status.
Colorado State Rep. Justin Everett, a Cruz supporter, said some of the state's delegation briefly walked out, but returned in time for the motion to reconsider.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said he was stunned by the developments, noting the chairman left the stage without explanation.
"He completely abandoned his post," Lee said. "I have never in all my life, in six years in the Senate, seen anything like this. There's no precedent for this in parliamentary procedure. Somebody owes us an explanation."
Leading up to Monday, anti-Trump forces repeatedly voiced suspicions that party leaders and the campaign would do whatever possible to subvert their effort. Required to submit their petitions quickly to convention secretary Susie Hudson, they frantically searched for her on the crowded convention floor Monday afternoon, suspicious that she was hiding.
They finally found a GOP official who said he would deliver the petitions.