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Shannon Travis CNN Political Reporter
Published: 28 August 2012

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Tampa, Florida (CNN) -- The Republican National Convention adopted two controversial rules on Tuesday. But a fight over their adoption threw a wrench in the convention's carefully scripted events: pitting the likes of Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and grassroots activists on one side with Mitt Romney's campaign and establishment Republicans on the other.

The days-long fight reached climax just hours after the Tuesday RNC session began, with supporters of the rules cheering their adoption and opponents booing against them. Moments before, some delegates even laid out angry - yet unsubstantiated - claims of meddling to keep a delegates away from a committee vote.

At issue: two rules dubbed Rule 16 and Rule 12.

The first is a compromise of an earlier proposal, named Rule 15, that was vehemently opposed by many grassroots activists, including many Ron Paul supporters. It addresses delegate selection in future Republican presidential primaries - instituting stronger enforcement mechanisms to compel delegates to vote as they are bound by their states. In the original proposal, future presidential candidates would have had veto power over who could become a delegate.

The second rule concerns the RNC's ability to change its rules in between its conventions.

Both rules were adopted on the convention floor by a voice vote. Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, chairman of the Rules Committee and a top surrogate for Romney, presented the rules. House Speaker John Boehner held the audible floor vote to adopt them.

Though the voices "for" and "against" sounded about the same, Boehner declared: "The ayes have it."

That caused opponents on the floor to erupt in a chorus of boos.

"What [Rule 16] does, we're no longer picking the bodies in the seats," RNC Press Secretary Kirsten Kukowski explained about the compromise rule.

"What we're doing is we're implementing a penalty phase so that you can do what you've always done, as far as putting delegates...in chairs. But if those people do not vote the way they're bound to do, then essentially it's all null and void. They're no longer delegates."

On Rule 12, Kukowski said: "What has been a long time thing with the RNC rules is, you can only vote on them every four years at national convention....Four years is a long time. So essentially that rule is making it so that the RNC as a body can convene in between conventions and change rules."

The floor catcalls followed a similar drama that played out in the rules committee itself.

About an hour before the floor vote, committee members discussed and debated the rules in a meeting.

The rule governing delegate selection was the most contentious. Yet it passed by a vote of 78-14.

Sarah Palin reacted to the original measure on her Facebook page Monday night.

Calling it a "controversial rule change" that is "so very disappointing," Palin added: "It's a direct attack on grassroots activists by the GOP establishment, and it must be rejected."

Some delegates reacted angrily to the committee passage of Rule 16.

"This takes us away from state sovereignty," said Colorado delegate Florence Sebern. "It takes us away from local control in our states. And it moves us towards, as a Republican Party, central control and top-down decisions. That's what this is."

"Are we the Republican Party?" she added.

"My inbox blew up. I had over 8,000 Coloradans emailing and calling me saying, 'Stand firm on these two issues.'"

Her anger was backed up by others outside the convention. Many grassroots activists, including tea party sponsor FreedomWorks, urged opposition to the rules.

Julianne Thompson, a national Romney delegate and a Georgia State Coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, wrote an open letter to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and members of the Rules Committee.

"With your current attempt at this rules change, you are essentially striking the first blow that chips away at that freedom, and you disenfranchise the very people that turned the tide for the GOP in 2010 by returning power in the U.S. House of Representatives to Republicans," Thompson wrote.

"I would like to hope that our nominee is unaware of the skullduggery that occurred with regard to this attempt at shutting out the people that have unified to help him win in November," Thompson added.

"The audacity of creating a firestorm when there is an opportunity for unity and peace that is needed to win back the Senate and take back the White House is irresponsible and I seriously question the motives of those behind this attempt."

A delegate from Utah, who supported the rule, also reacted.

"Rule 16 preserves the rights of the states to determine the way they select their delegates to the national convention," Bruce Hough said. "It gives the complete sovereignty to the states -- as it has now -- to make those determinations."

Romney attorney Ben Ginsburg - a Washington D.C. delegate - spoke about the rule.

"It's a great compromise," Ginsburg said. "It brings the party together. Some of the grassroots activists told us they had concerns about [the original proposal.] They were valid concerns. We were able to work out a compromise."

When pressed about lingering grassroots opposition to it, Ginsberg said:

"The vote was 78-14. It had the overwhelming support of the committee."

"I'm sorry we can't please everybody."

Though Rule 16 was approved by the committee, opponents vowed to try to kill it on the floor through a procedure called a "minority report."

Twenty-eight signatures were needed to advance that procedure. It's unclear if the opposition obtained the necessary number to do so.

Former Republican presidential candidate, tea party favorite and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, spoke to CNN outside the committee meeting after the vote.

"Well I was for the minority report because the backbone of our party is the grassroots," Bachmann said. "And I think it's very important that the people at the local level have their voice and have their say and be able to come here to the national convention and we need to hear their voice."

Meanwhile, some committee members suggested meddling was at play. A bus full of Virginia delegates arrived at the committee meeting -- after it had adjourned.

"The bus that was supposed to pick up the Virginia delegation arrived an hour later than it was supposed to," explained Virginia delegate Morton Blackwell, a prime opponent of Rule 16.

Blackwell continued: "And then when we went downtown, we went around the same series of blocks repeatedly - twice. And then the bus took out away from downtown, went about a mile and a half, and then did a u-turn and came back. And did another circuit, of the same place where we had been before. And at that point, the Virginia delegates demanded, 'Stop the bus. And we're going to walk.' And we did."

Mike Rothfeld, a Virginia delegate also on the bus, went further.

"They pushed us around for 45 minutes and then we missed the meeting," Rothfeld said.

"We were in the security perimeter, they pushed us out of it three separate times. They moved us around until the meeting was adjourned."

Sebern claimed the snafu was "deliberate."

Neither she nor the others recalling the story would say who they were directing their anger at. And none could provide proof to back up their claims.

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