CLEVELAND » Over angry and prolonged objections from anti-Donald Trump forces, Republican Party leaders approved rules for their national convention today and rejected demands for a state-by-state roll call vote, a discordant start to a gathering designed to project unity.
Hundreds of socially conservative delegates opposed to nominating Trump bellowed in outrage after the convention’s presiding officer, Arkansas GOP Rep. Steve Womack, abruptly put the rules to a vote and declared them approved by voice, not an individual tally of each state’s delegation.
Though likely to lose, the dissidents had demanded a roll call, a slow-moving vote that they hoped would underscore their claims that party leaders were unfairly railroading through rules that give too much clout to the GOP hierarchy. Top Republicans and Trump campaign officials wanted to avoid such a scenario, and ended up contending with a shorter but more raucous display of fury.
“Call the roll, call the roll,” opponents shouted. Practically drowning them out were chants of “USA, USA” by Trump supporters and party loyalists.
Minutes later, Womack had the convention vote by voice again, with both sides again shouting their votes lustily. Once again, he said, the rules’ supporters had prevailed.
The defeated mavericks reacted angrily, with some delegates leaving the convention floor and others vowing to not help Trump. Gary Emineth, a North Dakota delegate and GOP donor who was part of the insurgency, said he would resign from a fund-raising operation.
“You don’t do this in America,” he said.
Ken Cuccinelli, a leader of the conservative rebellion and former Virginia attorney general, ripped off his delegate credentials in protest.
Carol Hanson, an Iowa delegate, said some members of the state delegation left just before the vote and others walked out as soon as the roll call was denied.
The voice votes occurred even though earlier in the afternoon, dissident delegates submitted petitions from a majority of delegates from what they said were at least nine states — seemingly sufficient to force a roll call vote under party rules.
Womack said some delegates had withdrawn their signatures and that petitions from three of those states no longer qualified. That left the insurgents short of the seven states needed by GOP rule to force a roll call.
“The chair has found insufficient support for the request for a record vote,” Womack said as booming objections got ever louder.
The reversal by some delegates came after heavy lobbying by the Trump campaign and top officials of the Republican National Committee.
Leaders of those groups have been allied in recent weeks as Trump’s path to the GOP nomination became assured. Despite wary and even hostile relations early on, the two forces have a mutual interest in healing party divisions and making Trump as competitive as possible for his expected fall matchup against the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.
“This is the best possible outcome for us,” said Ron Kaufman, a GOP leader from Massachusetts who has been in the middle of the rules fight. “The never Trump movement never was.”
Republican aides said delegates from Maine, Minnesota and the District of Columbia had removed their names from petitions demanding a roll call — a practice that was eased by a rules change when the committee met last week.
“I have never in all my life, in six years in the Senate, seen anything like this,” said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, a delegate. “There’s no precedent for this in parliamentary procedure. Somebody owes us an explanation.”
Leading up to today, anti-Trump forces repeatedly voiced suspicions that party leaders and the campaign would do whatever possible to subvert their effort. Required to submit their petitions quickly to convention secretary Susie Hudson, they frantically searched for her on the crowded convention floor this afternoon, suspicious that she was hiding.
They finally found a GOP official who said he would deliver the petitions.
Associated Press reporters Steve Peoples, Tom Beaumont, Josh Lederman, Stephen Ohlemacher, Jonathan Lemire in Cleveland, William Draper in Kansas City, Missouri, and Kyle Potter in St. Paul, Minnesota, contributed to this report.