GOP platform gets Trump-ified

GOP platform gets Trump-ified
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CLEVELAND — Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation MORE is putting his stamp on the official policy platform of the Republican Party.

Republican Platform Committee members on Tuesday voted to include language calling for the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico
border. 

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And in a nod their presumptive presidential nominee’s support for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration, they also endorsed language that would impose “special scrutiny” of foreign nationals seeking to enter the U.S. from “regions associated with Islamic terrorism.”

Both provisions are departures from the GOP platform of 2012, when Republicans nominated Mitt Romney for president.

That party platform then called for completing “double-layered fencing” on the border, which was ordered by Congress in 2006 but never completed. It was silent on any special scrutiny of Muslims or other people from countries associated with Islamic extremism. 

The language on a border wall is a significant shift away from the “autopsy” report written by the Republican National Committee after Romney’s defeat. That report emphasized the need for the party to appeal to Hispanic voters to win back the White House.

Platform Committee members described the endorsement of Trump’s immigration proposals as evidence the party is fully embracing him on the issues that have energized his supporters and infuriated his critics.

“Back on June 16 of 2015, Donald Trump proposed this, and it resonated with the people of America,” said Stephen Stepanek, a committee member and delegate from New Hampshire who endorsed Trump last month.

“So not only is the Platform Committee recognizing the position Donald Trump has held throughout the primary process, it has been endorsed by the American people, who have overwhelmingly supported his positions and overwhelmingly made him the presumptive nominee.”

Trump and his supporters have largely kept a low profile as the committee crafts the policy platform, which delegates will consider at the Republican National Convention next week.

But they have made their marks on issues like immigration and trade that have been the cornerstones of Trump’s campaign.

The only mention of the Trans-Pacific Partnership — the international trade deal crafted by the Obama administration that Trump vehemently opposes — was stricken from an early draft of the platform.

The language on the border wall passed unanimously through a subcommittee and did not attract any opposition or amendments at the full committee hearing. 

It passed easily on Tuesday without any additional debate.

The only change to the immigration plank came when Trump supporter Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of State who helped write part of Trump’s immigration plan, interjected to ensure the platform would refer to “illegal aliens” rather than “illegal immigrants.”

Getting the wall built into the platform is a big win for the Trump campaign as it seeks normalize the proposals that some party leaders have been loath to embrace.

“The Romney campaign was very heavy handed about influencing the platform,” said Oregon delegate Russ Walker, who was on the Platform Committee in 2012 and this year.

“It’s far less that way this time from the Trump campaign. What’s happened is the current Platform Committee is in sync with Trump and using language in the platform to say the things they’ve wanted to say for some time.”

Trump’s promise to build a wall to keep people from illegally crossing into the U.S. has been one of the primary drivers of his insurgent campaign and a flashpoint for controversy.

And the committee has reworded its policy document to match the presumptive nominee’s campaign promises.

The 2012 platform said the double-layer fencing “must finally be built.”

The working draft of this year’s platform called for “construction of a physical barrier,” but Trump supporters saw that language as being open to weaker interpretations.

Now, the party has fully embraced one of Trump’s most controversial proposals, explicitly calling for a wall that must cover “the entirety of the Southern Border and must be sufficient to stop both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.”

Kelly Armstrong, a Platform Committee member and delegate from North Dakota, told The Hill, “I support the presumptive nominee, and so putting language in there to support his proposals is a good idea.” 

“At the end of the day, a strong immigration policy is something Republicans will support, and we’ll support our nominee’s positions on that.”

But some Republican critics of the plan say it’s impossible to build a border wall on the rough terrain along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) told The Hill in an interview on Capitol Hill on Tuesday that adopting the wall into the party’s platform doesn’t make it any more likely to happen.

“It doesn’t really matter,” Simpson said. “You still have to appropriate money for it. Mexico’s not going to pay for it. There are places where a wall is appropriate, but you’re not going to build a wall down the whole 2,300 miles on the border.”

The platform does not address Trump’s promise that Mexico will pay for the wall.

And some Republicans have warned that the proposal will further turn away Hispanic voters.

Following the 2012 elections, the Republican National Committee issued an assessment meant to keep Republicans from losing the White House race again.

The RNC report warned that minorities “wrongly think Republicans do not like them or want them in the country.”

Now some fear Trump’s vow to build the wall, as well as his saying that most Mexican immigrants bring crime over the border, has reversed any progress the party has made.

“I’ve found you can’t look at the Hispanic voters monolithically — there are plenty of folks who came here legally who respect that process and do not appreciate people who ignore that process,” said Giovanni Cicione, a Rhode Island delegate on the Platform Committee. “That being said, those same people probably have relatives here illegally, so it becomes a difficult question.”

But most Republicans on the Platform Committee dismissed those worries.

“I’m not concerned about that,” said Darcie Johnston, a Platform Committee member from Vermont. “That’s more of a press narrative.”

For the most part, delegates on the panel viewed their votes as a reflection of proposals that have widespread support among grassroots conservatives. 

They say they believe that bringing the platform in line with Trump on immigration will unite the party and capitalize on enthusiasm from the base.

“By the time we leave the Platform Committee meeting and by the time Republican delegates leave Cleveland, we’ll go home united and ready to support Donald Trump against Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonJordan calls Pelosi accusing Trump of bribery 'ridiculous' DOJ watchdog won't let witnesses submit written feedback on investigation into Russia probe: report What are Republicans going to do after Donald Trump leaves office? MORE,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a delegate on the committee.

“You’re going to see a very united Republican Party,” she continued. “So many [delegates] have already come around. … A number of individuals are no longer talking about how they wish their candidate had won. They’re talking about what can we do to help Donald Trump.”

Scott Wong contributed.