- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Building a border wall has become the signature of Donald Trump’s campaign, but some top GOP officials say it’s doubtful his pledge will make it into the party’s platform this summer, raising questions about just how much influence the Republican nominee will have over the agenda.

While Trump supporters chant “Build that wall!” at his rallies, those who will write and vote on the platform in Cleveland in July say they consider it more of a shorthand for border security, and question whether they need to include any specific call for a wall.

But Mr. Trump himself has shown no signs of backing down, even releasing a policy paper — one of just seven so far this campaign — detailing ways he can keep his pledge to force Mexico to pay for the cost of the wall. Each time Mexican officials objected, Mr. Trump said he’d build the wall even higher.

“Supporters want to see this because this is what Mr. Trump ran on,” said Matthew Jansen, a Trump supporter who won a slot to be a convention delegate from Pennsylvania. He said the platform must “explicitly” say there is a plan for a wall to be built between the Mexican and American border.

The focus on the GOP platform promises to pick up speed over the coming weeks as members of the committee that will write the document are selected by each delegation.

Hashed out every four years, the GOP platform generally turns into a balancing act between honoring various wish lists within from the Republican coalition, and between laying out broad conservative principles and advocating specific legislative priorities.

Some nominees have viewed it as more important than others. In 1996 Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas said he had not read the document and did not intend to.

The debates in some years also have proved harder than others, including in 2008, when Arizona Sen. John McCain’s signature congressional achievements on issues such as his push to tighten campaign finance laws and loosen immigration laws caused heartburn for members of the party’s conservative base, which tend to play a key role in writing the document.

This go-round could also be tension-filled, with control of The White House and Congress on the line, and given that much of the agenda Mr. Trump espoused on the campaign trail — including on immigration, trade and entitlements — puts him at odds with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who has been working to put his imprint on the future of the party.

The Trump camp did not respond to an email seeking comment on how hard they will push the wall, but longtime party leaders said they don’t feel beholden to what they call a metaphor.

“The wall in somebody’s mind is a physical thing, but in some other people’s mind it is a symbolic thing,” said Ron Kaufman, a member of the Republican National Committee from Massachusetts. “But I think most Republicans think the No. 1 job of any government is to keep the border safe and secure.”

James Bopp, an RNC official and longtime member of the platform committee, said the GOP platform typically incorporates the wants of the candidate, the party and the grass-roots activists.

“And I view [Mr. Trump‘s] statement on the need for a wall not to be literally that only a ‘wall’ will do,” Mr. Bopp said. “After all, a fence could also adequately serve the purpose.”

He added, “It is a metaphor.”

Sandy McDade, who, along with Family Research Council head Tony Perkins has been elected to the platform committee from Louisiana, said that many social conservatives are concerned Mr. Trump could water down the pro-life plank by adding an abortion exception for the health of the mother.

Ms. McDade said Mr. Trump could lose support if he endorses such an approach.

State Rep. Stephen Stepanek, who served as Mr. Trump’s New Hampshire co-chair and has been elected to the platform committee, said he plans to discuss the platform with the Trump camp following the final primary on June 7.

“I am sure [the wall] will be brought up, and it is something that I could definitely support putting in the platform,” Mr. Stepanek said,

“Quite frankly, the wall has been authorized and part of what Republicans have been pushing for decades, and for whatever reason, they have never been able to push it through,” he said. “We have been talking about the wall since George W. Bush, and a lot of conservatives have been asking the question, ‘Why can’t we get the wall built?’

“I don’t know if it has been a lack of will by politicians in Washington — you know, once they get in there they can forget why voters sent them there. But I know under Donald Trump that is something that will get done,” he said.


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