Amnesty Defeated? Eric Cantor to Step Down

APphoto_Virginia Primary
Dave Brat (pictured) defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Tuesday’s Republican primary.

Following a historic–and crushing–primary defeat to Tea Party challenger Dave Brat, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will step down from his position near the end of July. The decision apparently seeks to blunt the “chaos” that was unleashed yesterday when Brat shocked the political world. Cantor had been polling 20, 30, and even 40 points ahead of Brat for the duration of the campaign.

Cantor is also one of the primary voices calling for sweeping changes to the immigration system that may bring some version of amnesty. However, at least one source says that immigration reform died with Cantor’s loss, which would be a tremendous victory for the conservative movement.

Eric Cantor’s loss means that John Boehner may be done as Speaker of the House as well.

The Washington Post has the full scoop:

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) plans to step down from his leadership post by the end of July, setting off a weeks-long scramble for the chamber’s number two job, according to three Republicans familiar with his plans.

Cantor will formally announce his plans later Wednesday in a meeting with his House Republican colleagues in the basement of the U.S. Capitol.

Cantor’s decision – made just hours after he lost a primary contest to tea party-backed economist Dave Brat – comes as several senior Republicans began scrambling Wednesday to build support and fill the leadership vacuum.

With jockeying already underway, Cantor, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) were expected to meet around midday. McCarthy, the next in line after Boehner and Cantor, is widely expected to run for majority leader, but he will have competition. Members of the Republican Study Committee — the caucus for the most conservative House Republicans — were also huddling to discuss the future.

In addition to stepping down as majority leader, Cantor has decided not to run as a write-in candidate in November, according to two Republicans close to him. The Republicans were granted anonymity to discuss sensitive internal talks.

Cantor returned to the Capitol Wednesday morning by sneaking into the building through a back door on the Senate side in hopes of avoiding reporters. He appeared stone-faced and tense, grimacing when asked by The Washington Post whether he would step down from his leadership post or resign from Congress.

It’s unclear when elections would be held to succeed Cantor, something that will be out of his control. Republicans aligned with more establishment figures privately expressed interest in shortening the race, for fear that a seven-week race until the end of July would be an ideological battlefield that tears the caucus apart.

This could result in an earlier election and then a transition period for Cantor to leave his post. Allies of the majority leader described the timing of July 31 as one based largely on helping his staff make their moves.

The bottom line is that a new Majority Leader will be chosen by Republicans in the coming weeks, and the party’s leadership may need to rethink its strategy on immigration reform. Cantor’s defeat was seen by many as a rejection of the establishment’s capitulations to big government.

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