HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- The Republican National Committee's Standing Rules Committee closed Wednesday without recommending any changes to the convention rules, with members in near-unanimous agreement that any changes would only fuel charges that the RNC is playing favorites in advance of the presidential nomination vote in Cleveland.
The biggest debate took place over an amendment proposed by Oregon commiteeman Soloman Yue to change the convention rules from House Rules to Robert's Rules of Order, which proponents say would prevent establishment-minded Republicans from inserting a favorable candidate at a later ballot during a contested convention. A half-dozen members rose to express their opposition to the proposal, all warning that any changes now would be damaging to the party.
Though his name was never explicitly mentioned, Donald Trump was the implied subject of the party members' concerns. The GOP frontrunner has spent the past few weeks railing against a "rigged" and "corrupt" party system and charging that GOP leaders changed the rules specifically to hamper his candidacy. And to avoid giving Trump further ammunition for attacks, a group RNC members, led by Chairman Reince Priebus, have been lobbying Rules Committee members to oppose any changes to the rules.
"The idea that you would replace the entire operating manual…could only be viewed by any one candidate as an attempt to favor another candidate, and that's extremely dangerous," warned Georgia Committeeman Randy Evans.
Tennessee Committeeman John Ryder echoed Evans' concerns, questioning whether "given the dynamics" of the coming convention — which is increasingly expected to break open into multiple rounds of balloting with no clear nominee at the outset — "is this the convention where you want to try out, for the first time, a new set of operating rules?"
Regardless, the committee meeting Thursday at the RNC's Spring Meeting wouldn't have been able to approve any binding changes to the rules, only recommendations. The final convention rules are negotiated and approved by the Convention Rules Committee. Most members argued Thursday any changes should be left up to that committee, which meets the week before the July convention.
RNC Rules Committee Vice-Chairman Louis Pope worked late into the night on Tuesday whipping members to ensure none would back a change to the rules, and said outright there was a concern that any change would fuel further criticism from trump over the election process.
"He would be all over it tomorrow — that's Donald Trump's message," he said.