TAMPA — The Republican National Convention Rules Committee voted 63-38 to approve a new rule allowing granting the Republican National Committee — and Mitt Romney — sweeping new powers to amend the governing document of the GOP.
The move came at the encouragement of Mitt Romney supporters on the committee, including Romney's top lawyer Ben Ginsberg, who stressed that it would grant "flexibility" to Romney and the committee to adapt to changing political environments. The rule allows the RNC to amend the party's rules without a vote by the full Republican National Convention. And it offers the Republican Establishment a new tool to keep at by Tea Party initiatives that threaten to embarrass or contradict party leadership and stray from a planned message.
Romney, as his party's nominee, exerts significant influence over the RNC, which is made up of elected party officials from all 50 states, while the larger Convention Rules Committee is larger and has a more grassroots membership.
"This is necessary for the world in which we find ourselves in," Ginsberg told the committee, adding that it is "important for the political survival of the party in the electoral context," for the committee to be able to change the rules as it sees fit in the intervening four years between conventions.
Virginia delegate and RNC member Morton Blackwell strenuously objected to the proposed rule change, calling it "the most awful proposed amendments I’ve seen presented to this committee.”
"This is dangerous, it amounts to a power grab," he said. "We are abandoning the historic process by which are rules are adopted."
The Romney allies waited until Friday to propose the amendment, choosing to avoid giving the opposition time to organize by proposing it at the preliminary Rules meeting on Wednesday or during more than three years of RNC Rules Committee discussions.
South Carolina delegate Drew McKissick, who objected to the rule change, echoed Blackwell's charge, warning that nearly any rule could now be amended by 3/4 of the Republican National Committee.
"It’s definitely a power grab by the campaign, the committee," he said. "It’s bad juju. Once you let the genie out of the bottle they can do anything."