CLEVELAND — The committee in charge of outlining a GOP policy blueprint ahead of next week’s Republican National Committee on Tuesday endorsed Donald Trump’s wall along the Mexican border.
Social conservatives won nearly every other point in two days of deliberations, hardening Republican opposition to same-sex marriage and the rights of transgender individuals, endorsing the abolition of the IRS and the resumption of a trade ban on Cuba.
U.S. Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, who led the committee, began the week’s deliberations by employing Donald Trump’s promise to “make America great again.”
But with the exception of a few concessions made to an unconventional nominee who doesn’t always agree with his party’s base, what’s known of the final draft appears to be evidence that the Republican party will remain firmly under the control of religious conservatives after the November election.
The exact content of the platform committee’s draft won’t be officially unveiled until next Monday, when Republicans formally gavel their convention into order. But platform committee debates over amendments, and statements by delegates gave broad clues to the document’s direction.
On Tuesday afternoon, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a platform committee member and RNC delegate, showed reporters what he said was approved language, calling for a “wall” along the length of the Mexico-U.S. border capable of controlling vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Kobach claims to have helped Trump write parts of Trump’s tough stance on immigration.
The platform, he said, would also endorse stepped up deportation of illegal immigrants now in the U.S. “If you allow the person to stay, you’re giving them amnesty. You’re giving the person what he has unlawfully stolen – which is presence,” Kobach said.
Top Republicans agreed that many of Trump’s positions have been inserted into the platform draft, which will be subject to approval by the convention.
“We’re in the process of consolidating Republicans to make sure they support Donald Trump. That’s what this whole process is about,” said Alec Poitevint, a ranking Republican from Georgia who was in charge of the 2012 GOP convention in Tampa. “But there are other people who have their own agendas.”
The platform committee was a first test for a Trump organization that on many levels lacks familiarity with the ins and outs of the Republican process. Scott Johnson, another RNC delegate from Georgia, was pleasantly surprised by the result.
“The Trump people, they’ve got their whips here. But they’re respectful, and they’re not overbearing. Their folks have played this well,” Johnson said. One point Trump forces quietly insisted on, Johnson said, was support for restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act, a series of limits on banking practices dating to 1933 and repealed under President Bill Clinton.
Much of the rest of the platform was turned over to the party veterans who added language recommending a restoration of the trade ban on Cuba, which President Barack Obama has sought to end. Delegates also supported the continued “exemptions of women from ground combat units.” Another familiar topic was support for gun rights – and the AR-15 in particular.
But much of the platform committee’s time was spent proving that Republicans haven’t wavered on social issues. Earlier this spring, Trump declared that he didn’t care which bathroom Caitlyn Jenner, the Olympic athlete formerly known as Bruce Jenner, walked into. Members of the platform committee did.
(Jenner, incidentally, will appear in Cleveland when the RNC meets next week.)
On Monday, the platform committee turned aside a proposal from its first-ever gay member, Rachel Hoff of the District of Columbia, that would have acknowledged “diverse and sincerely held” opinions among Republicans on same-sex marriage. It was soundly defeated.
On Tuesday, Giovanni Cicione of Rhode Island sought to add this line to a condemnation of Islamic terrorism: “LGBT individuals in particular have been a target of violent oppression.”
Tuesday fell exactly a month after a U.S. citizen announced he was a soldier of ISIS and walked into a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., and killed 49 people.
Cicione also noted that a national poll released last week showed Trump not only trailing Democrat Hillary Clinton among 18 to 29-year-olds, but Libertarian Gary Johnson, too.
When delegates objected that Christians and Jews had been targeted by the Islamic state as well, those groups were added to the amendment.
“Can you not, at the very least, stand up for our right to not be killed, along with these other groups, by people who not only want to bring harm not only to our country, but to people based on their identity?” Hoff said.
The amendment was still rejected. At the end of the debate, the amendment that passed read like this: “We oppose the brutal assault on all human beings, all of whom have inherent dignity.”
Hoff would make other efforts to add references to the LGBT community to the platform, but was rejected at every turn in favor of additional language in favor of traditional marriage “between one man and one woman.”
At one point, another woman delegate leveled a burst of sarcasm at the platform chair: “Has the dead horse been beaten enough here?” she asked.
Starting in Iowa and New Hampshire, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has brought you every key moment in the 2016 presidential race. A team of AJC journalists will be at this month’s Republican and Democratic national conventions, continuing to provide that deep coverage.