MINNEAPOLIS — The 168-member Republican National Committee yesterday passed a resolution urging Congress to take all means necessary to secure the nation's borders against foreigners seeking illegal entry.
"We needed to send a message," Maryland RNC member Joyce Lyons Terhes said. "The borders need to be closed to illegal immigration, and people are disappointed with the lack of leadership on this issue, from the White House to the Senate Republican leadership and the Democrats in Congress."
To the consternation of conservatives, the RNC defeated efforts to withdraw its support of One Vote '08, a project of the One Campaign, founded by Irish rock star Bono.
The One Campaign calls for putting a 1 percent tax on the federal budget and spending the estimated $30 billion in annual revenues from the tax to fight global poverty and disease.
The immigration resolution was seen as a victory for conservatives over the White House and Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and presidential candidate. They are calling for "comprehensive" immigration reform that includes legitimizing illegal aliens in the United States, establishing a temporary-worker program and increasing border security.
After considerable negotiations led by the White House and its loyalists on the national committee, the two resolutions were rewritten so the RNC leadership could argue that both adhered to President Bush's initiatives on border security and preserved conservative principles in any fight against poverty and disease.
The revised resolutions were endorsed by the RNC's Resolutions Committee on Thursday — and then adopted without debate or dissent yesterday in floor votes at a general session of the full RNC.
The session was briefly closed to the press while first lady Laura Bush delivered a six-minute address to the full committee. Members said afterward that she talked movingly about the bridge collapse in Minneapolis on Wednesday, in which at least five persons were killed.
She also thanked the state party chairmen and national committee members for "what you do in your communities beyond Republican Party politics."
RNC Chairman Robert M. "Mike" Duncan told members at the general session that the theme of his speeches across the country between now and the November 2008 elections would be: "We are Republicans for a reason."
Mr. Duncan said the point of the theme was to remind voters that Republicans are dedicated to "keeping taxes low and the government out of your hair."
He said voters need to be reminded that they can rely on Republicans to "appoint judges who interpret the Constitution," rather than legislate from the bench.
Mr. Duncan said the party got diverted "from our principles in the last election and we are paying for it."
Some RNC members objected to Mr. Duncan's June endorsement of the One Vote '08 campaign.
"One Vote '08 is doing an amazing, compassionate thing, and I am proud to say the RNC supports their efforts completely," Mr. Duncan said at the time.
But One Campaign Chairman Jack Oliver, a former deputy Republican national chairman, said in a phone interview yesterday, "There is no 1 percent pledge at this point."
Kimberly Cadena, spokeswoman for the One Campaign, said in an e-mailed statement, that "One Vote '08 does not seek an additional 1 percent of the federal budget" but rather is simply an "an initiative to engage the presidential candidates on issues of global disease and extreme poverty."