Chaos Erupts on GOP Floor as Anti-Trump Vote Is Denied
CLEVELAND -- The anti-Trump movement died a quick but noisy death on the GOP convention floor Monday afternoon, after a procedural motion failed by voice vote twice, causing renegade delegates to erupt with shouts of protest.
Chaos broke out as a vote on the rules package that would govern the convention was decided by voice vote instead of a roll call vote.
“Roll call vote!” shouted those who wanted an on-the-record process to accept or change the rules package. Other delegates shouted back “USA! USA! USA!” The outbursts grew so loud the voices intermingled and the presiding officer left the podium, leaving delegates to scream at each other and at least one state delegation to walk out.
It was a sight Republican officials wanted to avoid on the opening day of their national convention, as the party pushed for unity around presumptive nominee Donald Trump.
Instead, they delivered images of turmoil and anger amid reports Trump will take the stage Monday night to introduce his wife, Melania, before her remarks.
The fight originated in Thursday’s hearing of the powerful Rules Committee, where proposals for a closed primary system, which was sought by conservatives; a Vote Your Conscience clause, wanted by anti-Trump delegates; and various proposals that would take power away from party elders were all defeated.
Despite lacking enough votes in the committee, the rogue delegates vowed to push for a roll call vote on the convention floor on the rules package. They knew their move was destined to fail due to lack of support but they also knew it could disrupt proceedings and embarrass the party on its opening day.
Officials denied them the vote but couldn’t avoid disorder on the floor.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who opened the convention and had presided earlier in the day, was conspicuously absent during the turmoil.
It was left to Arkansas Rep. Steve Womack to oversee the proceedings. After Rules Committee Chairman Enid Mickelsen moved that the committee’s rules be adopted, Womack called for a voice vote. The “ayes” and the “nays” co-mingled, creating a wall of sound from the convention floor.
Womack ruled the ayes had it and the anti-Trump delegates erupted into boos and shouts for a “roll call vote.” Their anger was palpable.
Among those pushing for the vote were Kendal Unruh, of the Delegates Unbound and Free the Delegates movement; former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who has proposed rules to limit the power of the RNC leadership; and conservative Sen. Mike Lee of Utah.
At one point during the proceedings, Cuccinelli tore off his delegate credentials. “I can’t do this,” he said.
The Colorado delegation, of whom Unruh is a member, walked off the floor in protest. According to C-SPAN, the Iowa delegation did so also.
The podium, meanwhile, remained empty with no GOP official to preside as delegates began leaving their seats to shout at each other and wave their arms in the air.
"I have never in all my life, certainly in six years in the United States Senate, prior to that as a lifelong Republican, never seen anything like this," Lee said, according to Politico. "There is no precedent for this in parliamentary procedure. There is no precedent for this in the rules of the Republican National Convention. We are now in uncharted territory. Somebody owes us an explanation. I have never seen the chair abandoned like that. They vacated the stage entirely."
Music resumed and, as the crowd began to calm down, Womack returned to the stage and called for a second vote on the rules package. As he spoke, more shouts for a roll call vote filled the arena.
Womack again judged that the ayes again had it as more booing broke out.
Then he called on a delegate from Utah and the convention paused, wondering if a roll call vote was in fact coming.
But it was not.
Organizers had submitted petitions from nine states asking for a roll call vote. Seven states are needed. However, Womack announced that three states had withdrawn their requests. “The chair has found insufficient support for a record vote,” he said.
Delegates called for the withdrawn states to be identified, but they were not. But it was actually four states, a source told RealClearPolitics, Iowa, Minnesota, Washington D.C., and Maine.
The convention dissolved into boos as others shouted “We want Trump!” to drown them out.
“They rolled through, they cheated. They cheated. You saw them violate their own rules, and the rules don’t matter,” Cuccinelli said after the proceedings.
#NeverTrump senior adviser Rory Cooper said in a statement the group had more than enough states for a roll call vote.
“There is no excuse for strong-arming delegates and skirting the rules to silence these members of the party,” he said.
Party officials had expected the motion for a roll call vote and their preparations paid off. There were reports earlier Monday that Trump campaign officials and RNC officials were working the floor and the phones to try to stop any shenanigans on the convention floor.
In fact, Trump delegate wrangler Rick Gates told CNN: "Our goal is to destroy them.”
The afternoon session, which was designed to conduct o the business of the convention, moved slowly – a band played multiple times at a loud volume, so loud it was hard to talk to the person next to you.
Before the vote, Unruh worried about the party’s tactics. “Of course he’s not going to be fair,” she said of Priebus, noting her group feared it would not be recognized.
And Dane Waters, a co-founder of Delegates Unbound, said before the voice votes: “We’re hopeful that the Trump campaign will respect the delegates and not put too much pressure on them. We’ve heard reports over and over again of intimidation and pressure. We’ll just see what happens.”
But John Fredericks, the vice chairman of Trump’s Virginia campaign, said, “This effort had nothing to do with rules. It was all an effort to embarrass the nominee. They don’t have the votes; they never had the votes.”
Finally, about three hours after Priebus gaveled the convention into session, the committee on credentials and the committee on organization made their reports, which were approved. The Rules Committee was next and opposition delegates stood at mics on the floor, ready to ask for a roll call vote.
Instead, Priebus left the stage and the music started again.
Another 15 minutes passed before the rules vote took place.
After the ruckus ended, Sen. John Barrasso, the chairman of the Platform Committee, came out to make his report. “Who’s proud to be an American?” he asked.
The shouts in response were tepid.