If the Republican National Convention is the GOP's Super Bowl, the committee meetings the week prior could be considered an extremely condensed playoff season. That's where proposals are made, vibrant debates are held, and messes are (hopefully) untangled so that everything can be set for the main show. At the convention next week, July 18-21, the committees will submit their proposals to the entire delegation floor for a vote. That's also, of course, where the full delegation will officially nominate a Republican candidate for president.
In recent presidential elections, the committee meetings attracted little attention, but this year, there's been a strong uptick in interest -- read on to find out more.
What are the committees?
There are four different convention committees: Rules, Platform, Credentials, and Permanent Organization (we'll get to their more official names later). Each of them is stacked with one man and one woman from each of the 50 states, D.C., and five territories: American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands. That makes for 112 members on each committee.
When do they meet?
The platform committee will meet Monday (7/11) and Tuesday (7/12). The convention rules committee will meet Thursday (7/14) and Friday (7/15) if necessary.
What's going to be the most exciting thing to watch?
Depends who you ask. But let's just say excitement has shot up in the last four years. This year the RNC has credentialed more than 400 reporters to attend the rules committee meetings, up from just 20 in 2012 before the convention in Tampa.
Okay, let's break it down.
Rules, rules, rules
Also known as the Committee on Rules and Order of Business, this group of 112 delegates is responsible for proposing rules that will govern the 2016 convention and the Republican Party until they are taken up again four years from now. And yes, that means there are no rules currently set for this convention. The committee will consider, but not necessarily take, recommendations from the "standing" or "permanent" rules committee, which will meet earlier in the week, on Tuesday (7/12). That one is made up of 56 RNC members and exist as a group beyond the convention.
You've lost me. It is confusing. During the four-year period between conventions, the standing committee has to review the rules package approved at the previous convention and propose new, non-binding, recommendations for the following one. It is not uncommon for delegates to serve on both committees at the same time. At their spring meeting in April 2016, the standing rules committee did not put forth any recommendations. They will meet again on Tuesday.
Are there going to be any fights? You betcha. It may not be as physically exciting as a bloody hockey fight or bench-clearing baseball brawl, but there will likely be screaming and yelling about one particular issue that has gained more attention than the others. Within the Republican party right now, there are essentially two schools of thought about who the nominee should be: Trump or not Trump. Theoretically, this committee could propose a rule to the full delegation that would allow delegates to "vote their conscience" and disregard the fact many of them are "bound" to vote for Trump.
What's binding? It varies by state, but that's when delegates are required to vote for a certain candidate based on how people in their state voted in the primaries and caucuses. In some states, like Colorado, North Dakota and Wyoming, candidates are not bound to vote for a particular candidate.
Who wants what? A group called "Free the Delegates," run by Colorado delegate and rules committee member Kendal Unruh, along with Regina Thomson, also from the Centennial state, want anybody but Trump. Since June, they have led a grassroots movement to urge rules committee members to seriously consider and vote for a rule that would allow all delegates to unbind themselves and therefore "vote their conscience." While confident they can unseat Trump from the nomination, the group has specifically avoided naming a candidate they would like to fill Trump's place on the ticket. And as with any conflict, there are delegates fighting against this movement. CBS has surveyed dozens of rules committee members who say they are enthusiastic Trump supporters or respect the will of Republican voters, and will not stand in the way of a Trump nomination.
Other issues: Delegates' influence on the VP pick, a rule that would prevent any rule from being passed until 2020 (Google Solomon Yue), whether primaries and caucuses should be open (include independents) or closed (Republican only), and the order of states' primaries during the next campaign season.
Running the show: Enid Mickelsen, a former congresswoman and Republican party stalwart will chair the committee with fellow longtime Republican Ron Kaufman.
Put your platforms on for the party
Just kidding. Lose the heels -- this isn't 1970! The platform of any party consists of the core policies and principles the party wants to advance. At the Committee on Resolutions (the "platform committee") meetings, we'll see debates about the planks members would like to see carried on over the next four years. How does the party feel about abortion? Where does it stand on climate change? Are these tenets conservative enough? Those specifics will be doled out during their meetings.
Core conservative principles: The 2012 Republican Party Platform marked a shift to the right from previous years, influenced by the rise of tea party activists. This year, committee chairs are expecting to strike a similar tone.
Is Donald Trump conservative enough? That question has a bunch of Republicans worried, especially Cruz supporters, who tend to be more socially conservative. The presumptive nominee has been criticized for being too liberal or moderate particularly on social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, as well as trade, taxes, education, and in some cases, immigration. The platform committee chairs are confident they will be able to preserve their conservative principles.
What issues will come up? CBS News learned this weekend that moderate Republicans are drafting an amendment that would soften the GOP's position on gays and lesbians. Currently, the language adopted during the 2012 platform calls the "redefinition of marriage" by state courts an "assault on the foundations of society." It's unclear whether or not this language will be eliminated. But the compromise that some delegates are expecting is the addition of "equality language."
Other issues: Including but not limited to trade, abortion, healthcare, energy, and whether the physical size of the platform document itself should be shortened. Would you rather read two pages or 62? Yeah. We thought so.
Leading the dance: Committee Chair Sen. Barrasso (WY), a former orthopedic surgeon, will lead the committee with the help of co-chairs Gov. Mary Fallin (OK) and Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC)
Get your credentials
The Committee on Credentials will hear and resolve appeals to the ruling of any contest adjudicated by the RNC Committee on Contests. Contests usually arise when someone thinks a delegate or delegate slate's selection violates rules, and therefore considers them illegitimate. Maybe ballots were miscounted at a state convention or paperwork wasn't filled out correctly. As we'll find out, in the case of the U.S. Virgin Islands, the contest surrounds an issue of island residency. The contests committee is often compared to a trial court, and the credentials committee to an appeals court.
Are there really that many problems? Some years there are many challenges and in other years they run few and far between, as credentials committee vice-chair Doyle Webb explained to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette last month. In 2008, there were only three such disputes, he said. In 2012, however, there were 100-- as Mitt Romney supporters vied with Ron Paul backers for seats on the convention floor.
#TBT 2012: Half of Ron Paul's Maine delegation was booted out and replaced with Romney supporters. Two Romney delegates from the state had argued 20 Paul delegates were improperly elected at the state's convention, thanks to illegal votes and parliamentary violations. The contests committee concluded there were many mistakes made by the party, and the credentials committee ultimately ruled in their favor. This situation caused Maine Governor Paul LePage and many of the rest of Maine's delegates to skip the convention in protest.
What about this year? Why, yes. Thought you'd never ask.
Tell me more: Tell me more: Who would have guessed that the U.S. Virgin Islands, one of the world's top vacation spots, would also be hosting its own very weird delegate battle, with two groups of potential delegates fighting over which will be seated at the GOP convention?
The group led by John Yob, a Michigan native, was originally to be seated at the convention, as opposed to USVI GOP Chairman John Canegata's group. Canegata had charged that Yob didn't meet a residency requirement of 90 days. After a long and crazy battle, a judge ruled this month that there was no 90-day residency requirement, and the RNC Contests Committee chair also offered a preliminary ruling in Yob's favor, therefore allowing Yob and his delegation to go to the convention.
Still, John Canegata will contest the decision with the Committee on Credentials. Oh, and by the way, this is all for under 10 delegates out of the 1,237 needed for the nomination. And, did we mention that both delegations would give their votes to Trump?
Top credentialers: Former RNC Chairman, Mike Duncan, will lead with vice-chair Doyle Webb.
Let's get organized
The Committee on Permanent Organization will meet at the beginning of the convention to review and make recommendations about RNC Chairman Reince Priebus' picks for convention officers. That includes the permanent and temporary chairmen, the secretary and the sergeant-at-arms.
Who's leading the charge? It will be led by former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, also a former RNC Chairman, and co-chaired by Mary Buestrin, Wisconsin's National Committeewoman who also serves on the convention rules committee.