Repudiated at the polls, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced Wednesday that he will resign his leadership post at the end of next month, clearing the way for a potentially disruptive Republican shake-up just before midterm elections with control of Congress at stake.
Cantor informed fellow Republicans of his intentions at an emotional closed-door meeting, then made his public announcement at a news conference where he appeared upbeat, all less than 24 hours after losing Virginia’s GOP primary election to David Brat, a little-known and underfunded rival backed by tea-party groups.
Lawmakers in both parties said Cantor’s defeat and the prospect of a change within the Republican high command probably signal the demise of immigration legislation along the lines President Barack Obama is seeking and also will have a negative impact on the balance of his second-term agenda.
Even so, Obama disputed the notion that Cantor’s surprise loss crushed the prospects of House Republican leaders bringing an immigration bill to the floor this year. Addressing Democratic donors in Massachusetts, Obama rejected what he called “conventional wisdom” proffered by Washington pundits.
“I fundamentally reject that, and I will tell the speaker of the House he needs to reject it,” Obama said.
Cantor also has been deeply involved in GOP attempts to develop an alternative to the health care law that Republicans want to repeal.
Fellow Republicans set leadership elections for June 19, assuring that any campaigning would be brief.