Eric Cantor Is Stepping Down From Leadership

The No. 2 House Republican will step down from his leadership position, after losing a primary for his seat on Tuesday night.

The U.S. Capitol is shown on the morning of June 11, 2014 in Washington, DC. Yesterday House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) lost his Virginia primary to Tea Party challenger Dave Brat.
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June 11, 2014, 9:24 a.m.

House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor in­formed mem­bers of his con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon that he will step down from his po­s­i­tion ef­fect­ive Ju­ly 31, set­ting up a spe­cial lead­er­ship elec­tion to re­place him. That elec­tion will be held next Thursday, June 19, ac­cord­ing to a Re­pub­lic­an source.

Can­tor lost a primary for his seat on Tues­day night. House Re­pub­lic­ans are hold­ing a spe­cial meet­ing this af­ter­noon, which star­ted at 4 p.m. in the base­ment of the Cap­it­ol. There is spec­u­la­tion fly­ing around the Hill that they will also dis­cuss a pos­sible suc­cessor at the meet­ing.

A press con­fer­ence is sched­uled for 4:30 p.m.

Can­tor’s exit would set off a race to re­place Can­tor as the num­ber two Re­pub­lic­an in the House. Already, Texas Reps. Jeb Hensarling and Pete Ses­sions have in­dic­ated that they are tak­ing a look at the race. House Ma­jor­ity Whip Kev­in Mc­Carthy is also ex­pec­ted to seek to move up the rung of House lead­er­ship.

Mc­Carthy wouldn’t com­ment on wheth­er he’ll seek Can­tor’s job, but said: “There will be an an­nounce­ment [at the 4 p.m. meet­ing].”

Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, says that Mc­Carthy told him that he will def­in­itely be run­ning for ma­jor­ity lead­er.

The House’s No. 4 Re­pub­lic­an Cathy Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers said in a state­ment that she’s stick­ing with her post as con­fer­ence chair, “after much en­cour­age­ment from my col­leagues, con­ver­sa­tions with my fam­ily, and many pray­ers.”

Wed­nes­day’s dis­cus­sions come as ten­sions are grow­ing on the Hill between con­ser­vat­ives and mem­bers of lead­er­ship. Many con­ser­vat­ives took last night’s race in Vir­gin­ia’s sev­enth con­gres­sion­al dis­trict as a ref­er­en­dum, not just on Can­tor, but on the House’s cur­rent lead­er­ship as a whole.

Con­cerns over Can­tor’s con­tin­ued pres­ence in lead­er­ship as a lame duck head­ing in­to the Novem­ber midterm elec­tions could also be a factor in­to his pos­sible exit.

Can­tor’s tech­nic­al du­ties as lead­er in­clude schedul­ing what bills go to the floor, along with the key role of de­vis­ing and mesh­ing the con­fer­ence’s over­all polit­ic­al and le­gis­lat­ive strategy. And there is no re­quire­ment for him to step down un­der in­tern­al House Re­pub­lic­an rules, ac­cord­ing to an aide fa­mil­i­ar with the rules.

But House GOP lead­er­ship aides, speak­ing on the con­di­tion they not be iden­ti­fied, de­scribed the choice that’s to be made by Can­tor on wheth­er he would stick around as lead­er as this:

On one hand, the ar­gu­ment for Can­tor step­ping down ASAP is that his de­feat by tea-party backed Dave Brat rep­res­ents a sort of “no con­fid­ence” vote from Can­tor’s own con­stitu­ents in Vir­gin­ia. And giv­en that, they also ques­tion wheth­er the con­fer­ence should have a de­feated “lame duck” so prom­in­ently at the helm next to Speak­er John Boehner through the sum­mer and stretch run of this year’s mid-term elec­tions, a re­mind­er to voters.

But an ar­gu­ment in fa­vor of keep­ing him around as long as pos­sible is that Boehner and the con­fer­ence don’t need — in fact should avoid — a po­ten­tially tu­mul­tu­ous and de­struct­ive in­tern­al lead­er­ship battle at this point be­fore the elec­tion, and that Boehner should ask Can­tor to stay on as lead­er. There are some who see such a con­test right now as po­ten­tially even an early proxy vote on Boehner him­self, and his en­tire lead­er­ship team.

Cor­rec­tion: An earli­er ver­sion of this story mis­stated Can­tor’s dis­trict. It is Vir­gin­ia’s sev­enth.

Tim Alberta contributed to this article.
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