Pro-Bush legislators in the Michigan Senate yesterday paved the way to enact what one Democratic legislator called the "George Bush Survival in Michigan Act."
State Senate Majority Leader John Engler, a cochair of the state Bush campaign, is attempting to amend an election law in ways that would effectively negate a Sept. 15 GOP state committee decision.
The committee, controlled by supporters of Marion G. (Pat) Robertson and Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), had voted 60 to 41 not to make the party's 1,200 officeholders and nominees -- mostly Bush supporters -- automatic, at-large delegates to county conventions, the next stage in Michigan's delegate-selection process.
Engler's staff has prepared three amendments intended to change the Republican delegate-selection process and ultimately give Bush a majority of Michigan's 77 delegates to the party's national convention. One or all riders will be voted on by the full Senate by Thursday.
One rider would legally redefine "at-large" delegates to include the disputed Bush group. Another would allow Engler and his House counterpart, also a Bush supporter, to appoint 10 legislators each to the state GOP committee. This would effectively pack the 101-member committee, shifting the balance of power from the Robertson-Kemp alliance to Vice President Bush.
The third amendment would require each congressional district to elect three national delegates -- currently most elect two -- thus limiting by an additional 18 the number of delegates chosen by the county conventions.
For the pro-Bush amendments to take effect immediately after enactment, they would need a two-thirds Senate vote -- requiring significant Democratic support. Engler spent the day talking with Democratic leaders about what he could offer in return for their support.
One committee Democrat, Mitch Irwin, said, "There appears to be a civil war in the Republican Party. We're quite humored by it. Usually we struggle. Now we're letting them scratch each other's eyes out."