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Eric Cantor To Step Down As Majority Leader

eric-cantor-flag-loses-primary

After yesterday’s political earthquake in Central Virginia, it’s being reported that Eric Cantor will step down as House Majority Leader at the end of July:

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 – coming 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.

There was much discussion in the wake of last night’s loss about what Cantor would do regarding his leadership post. Theoretically at least, he could have held on to the position until the current Congressional term end at the end of the year, with the new Republican class picking a new Majority Leader in mid-November after the midterm elections. However, by stepping down early, Cantor gives at least some room to his fellow members of the House Leadership to promote a preferred candidate into the Majority Leader’s position, which would likely give them a boost when elections for the new Congressional term are held later this year. Additionally, a loss such as this pretty much ended whatever influence Cantor may have had inside the House GOP Caucus in any case, so he would have been Majority Leader in name only had he decided to hold on to the position.

Regardless of when the election is held, though, it’s quite clear that there’s going to be a huge battle for Cantor’s spot as well as other leadership positions that may open up because of this resignation that will lay out in the open many of the “establishment v. Tea Party” battles that we’ve been seeing play out in primary elections this year:

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions is making an aggressive play for the No. 2 spot. The Texas Republican has been calling and emailing lawmakers seeking support for a potential bid to replace Cantor, according to several sources and a Sessions aide. He sent out a mass text message Tuesday night seeking support.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, the chamber’s No. 3 Republican, has also been speaking with a lot of members. But McCarthy will not engage in a formal campaign until Cantor makes a decision about whether he will stay in leadership for the duration of his term — one of the biggest unanswered questions on Wednesday.

The strategy for McCarthy of California is to make his ascension appear to be the most logical choice for Republicans. He and Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, another possible contender for the majority leader position, spoke by phone Tuesday night, according to a GOP source familiar with the conversation. The two have a friendly relationship and discussed the leadership situation. But it is unclear if there was any resolution from the discussion.

Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) are also considered potential contenders for the majority leader position. Jordan has already made calls to some lawmakers.

GOP Vice Chair Lynn Jenkins (Kansas) would also consider moving up, according to a GOP source.

“I am humbled by the many people who have approached me about serving our Republican Conference in a different capacity in the future,” Hensarling said. “There are many ways to advance the causes of freedom and free enterprise, and I am prayerfully considering the best way I can serve in those efforts.”

(…)

Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise and Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam have all but openly declared they are running for the whip slot. Both lawmakers have been reaching out to people, but have not formally announced bids for the slot.

Scalise aggressively began texting and calling members Tuesday evening to begin formulating a whip count, sources said.

McMorris Rodgers has signaled interest to her allies in both the majority leader and whip slot. She said she was “talking to a lot of people.” But sources close to her added that she has not yet made a decision to run for majority leader or whip.

Other potential whips include Sessions and Georgia Rep. Tom Price.

With the primaries basically winding down, this will be the major battle inside the Republican Party over the next six weeks or so. No doubt various outside groups from the Tea Party and elsewhere will weigh in with their choices. In the end, however, the votes belong to the current Republican members of Congress and, because of that, I would suspect that an early vote such as this will work to the advantage of people like McCarthy and McMorris-Rodgers who essentially will be seeking to move a step up in the leadership — McCarthy from Majority Whip to Majority Leader and McMorris-Rodgers from Chair of the House Republican Conference to Majority Whip — while candidates that are likely to get backed by insurgent forces likely to divide the vote between them. Much will depend, though, on who ends up throwing their name into which leadership race, and whether or not we end up seeing consensus candidate(s) emerge for Cantor’s seat and any other open positions. At the very least, though, I’d expect that we’ll see the Tea Party wing of the GOP Caucus demand additional representation in leadership that has been denied them in the past due to seniority rules. Cantor’s downfall opens up a huge hole in the leadership of the caucus, and the battle for re-positioning is going to be fierce.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    Could be more fun than Game of Thrones.

    …I’d expect that we’ll see the Tea Party wing of the GOP Caucus demand additional representation in leadership…

    Whether they succeed will tell us a lot about whether the establishment is defeating the Tea Party, is co-opting the Tea Party, or now are the Tea Party.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  2. danimal says:

    If, as I expect, the Cantor loss leads to a host of Republicans trying to outflank each other to the right, the fight for leadership in the GOP caucus runs the danger of becoming a fight over deck chairs on the Titanic.

    At a time in which they should be tacking to the center, the GOP congressional leaders will be vying for the favor of the Fox News celebs, the Heritage Foundation and Rush Limbaugh. This could leave the GOP with a lot of political baggage heading into the fall, especially if things get nasty (and they will). Not a lot of time to sing Kumbaya after the long knives are drawn.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  3. michael reynolds says:

    Cantor ‘s loss teaches that there is no way pander to the Tea Party. You either fight the extremists or surrender totally. I assume surrender.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 4

  4. al-Ameda says:

    “I am humbled by the many people who have approached me about serving our Republican Conference in a different capacity in the future,” Hensarling said. “There are many ways to advance the causes of freedom and free enterprise, and I am prayerfully considering the best way I can serve in those efforts.”

    LOL
    It appears more and more that Cantor might have been a RINO.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  5. Moosebreath says:

    @al-Ameda:

    “It appears more and more that Cantor might have been a RINO.”

    In what sense? I remembering reading earlier today that his voting record with with the party over 95% of the time, and was roughly has conservative as Jim Inhofe. What definition of RINO (other than delusional ones like bithead’s) includes him?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  6. Tillman says:

    It was shocking to us all, but it appears to have been most shocking to Eric Cantor.

    Ezra Klein had a good point: what is wrong with Republican internal polling lately? These people seem genuinely shocked when they lose.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  7. al-Ameda says:

    @Moosebreath:

    In what sense? I remembering reading earlier today that his voting record with with the party over 95% of the time, and was roughly has conservative as Jim Inhofe. What definition of RINO (other than delusional ones like bithead’s) includes him?

    I was having some fun with this stuff. However, I have to say it’s beginning to appear that for Tea Party types, 95% just won’t do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  8. stonetools says:

    @gVOR08:

    Could be more fun than Game of Thrones.

    Hopefully, without the poisionings.
    I’m wondering if all the infighting will move the needle for the Democrats in the mid-term. the Republicans will come out of this looking even more extremistthan before, but they already look extremist and it doesn’t seem to have helped the Democrats

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  9. Pinky says:

    @Moosebreath: I think that Cantor was seen as too supportive of immigration. As for his successor in leadership, and other possible jockeying, my impression is that this stuff happens so far behind the scenes that it’ll already be a done deal before the press even figures out who the top contenders are. And these things are decided by longtime alliances and appraisals of individual talent rather than policy, so I don’t think there’ll be much signaling or hidden meaning behind the choices.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. Mikey says:

    @stonetools:

    Hopefully, without the poisionings.

    Yes, it would be a lot more fun if it had fewer poisonings and more of what The Mountain did to Oberyn.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  11. PJ says:

    @Tillman:

    Ezra Klein had a good point: what is wrong with Republican internal polling lately? These people seem genuinely shocked when they lose.

    They hired that guy that unskews polls for a living?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  12. C. Clavin says:

    I nominate Jenos as Cantors replacement.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  13. PJ says:

    @Tillman:

    Ezra Klein had a good point: what is wrong with Republican internal polling lately? These people seem genuinely shocked when they lose.

    They may also have started actually believing their own lies and bullsh*t.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  14. C. Clavin says:

    I wonder if the polling on Cantor gave him such a lead that everyone stayed home?
    In any case…his replacement will speak volumes about the future of the Republican Party.
    Wing-nut…or just run of the mill idiot? (That’s all the GOP has, right?)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  15. gVOR08 says:

    @PJ: They always have. Me from five days ago:

    gVOR’s law of PolySci – CONSERVATIVES BELIEVE THEIR OWN BULLSHIT.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  16. rudderpedals says:

    Hard to believe no one’s singing Cantor’s praises. Let’s tally his accomplishments.

    OK so what else? I don’t think Boehner stays. Hensnarling’s gonna move up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  17. Tillman says:

    @rudderpedals:

    Let’s tally his accomplishments.

    Debt Ceiling 2011.

    Turning the shit-eating grin into an art form worthy of academic study.

    Drawing a blank otherwise.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

  18. Tillman says:

    @Pinky:

    As for his successor in leadership, and other possible jockeying, my impression is that this stuff happens so far behind the scenes that it’ll already be a done deal before the press even figures out who the top contenders are.

    That’s how things used to work, back when Washington [used to function/was less dysfunctional]. Now, the moment jockeying starts going the wrong way from the perspective of one of the many contenders, there will be a press leak of some sort.

    That is, unless they maintain some sacred level of silence about the whole process. I don’t have faith that they will.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  19. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: Oh, Clffy, you’re so sweet! But I’m not a member of the House. At least, not that I’ll admit to.

    But Cantor’s doing the classy thing here, and I respect him for it. Next is to see what he’ll do about the general election — support Brat, say nothing, or try to hurt Brat’s chances in the general. I don’t think he’ll do the latter…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

  20. Grewgills says:

    As someone that wants to see the dems hold the senate, this is the best news I’ve had on that front in weeks. I’m guessing that by the end of the month Nate Silver has Republican gains in the Senate closer to 5.2 than 5.7.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  21. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Cantor’s doing the classy thing here

    You think he has a choice?
    Can you discuss that in reference to the Tragedy of the Commons for us?
    You really don’t seem to understand much about anything.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

  22. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: You think he has a choice?

    As you demonstrate at every possible option, doing the unclassy thing is always possible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 10

  23. anjin-san says:

    @ C. Clavin

    It must be illuminating, be lectured about class by a guy who went on a multi-day rant with endless repletion of the intimate moments shared between two teenage girls in a restroom.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

  24. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: Do you really wanna bring up the time that you and a host of others were talking about how awful and homophobic it was to punish this legal adult performing sex acts on a 14-year-old in a public school bathroom? It’s completely off topic…

    And Cantor could have resigned his leadership post immediately, he could have resigned it AND his seat immediately, or he could have held both until next January. All of which were entirely possible, and would have made things more difficult for the GOP. Instead, he did the right thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 15

  25. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    Do you really wanna bring up the time that you and a host of others were talking about how awful and homophobic it was to punish this legal adult performing sex acts on a 14-year-old in a public school bathroom?

    Well, everyone that was there knows that you are, once again, making things up.

    But I am sorry I brought this up. God knows I don’t want to hear you obsessing about teenage lesbian sex again, over and over and over…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  26. rachel says:

    @danimal:

    At a time in which they should be tacking to the center, the GOP congressional leaders will be vying for the favor of the Fox News celebs, the Heritage Foundation and Rush Limbaugh. This could leave the GOP with a lot of political baggage heading into the fall, especially if things get nasty (and they will).

    Well, I’m sure “the left” are “pissing their pants in terror” over the prospect.

    Aaaaahahahahaha!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  27. anjin-san says:

    @ rachel

    These guys have been crawling to Limbaugh on command for years, they have practice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  28. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “But I’m not a member of the House. At least, not that I’ll admit to.”

    Except mommy’s house, of course.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  29. Tyrell says:

    @Tillman: I really don’t know what has become of politics these days, but give me the days of Rayburn, Johnson, Humphrey, Dirksen, O’Neil, Russell, Long, and Mansfield. We need some common sense, shake hands at the end of the day (better yet have a bourbon and a steak, followed by a cigar), make some deals, and get things done.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  30. An Interested Party says:

    …doing the unclassy thing is always possible.

    Written by a master of that particular skill…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  31. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Oh, and I have to give a hat tip to Chuck Hagel who stood up to Rep Jeff Miller and basically told him to STFU after he asked if Chuck had ever seen a seriously wounded soldier returned to the US quickly.

    “HEY JACK A$$, CHUCK HAGEL WAS A SERIOUSLY WOUNDED SOLDIER IN VIETNAM WHILE YOU WERE TAKING DEFERMENTS LEFT AND RIGHT!!!!

    Sorry… I know all caps are bad, but this a-hole needs an a$$ whuppin.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  32. CB says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    But I’m not a member of the House. At least, not that I’ll admit to.

    I could die happy if I found out you were Bernie Sanders, troller of message boards, in real life.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  33. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @CB: Oh, crap…

    You realize, of course, now I have to kill you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  34. Stupid question: Why resign as Majority Leader? Why take the pay cut for his remaining term?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. Ron Beasley says:

    @Timothy Watson: Because he knows he’s going to be powerless which could reduce the possibility that he could make big bucks on K street.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Timothy Watson:

    I imagine it helps him become a bit of a king maker as well, the first step to rebuilding whatever political career he can.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. rudderpedals says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Hagel also deservedly tore the legacy congressman whose name rhymes with “fwckin punter” a new arsehole, Good watching.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0