Outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor received a standing ovation from most of his fellow Republicans on Tuesday at a closed-door meeting, where a highlight film was played to mark some of his most memorable moments.
“Thank you,” said Speaker John Boehner, in an emotional send-off to his top lieutenant, who officially steps down from his top-level post at midnight Thursday to make way for Rep. Kevin McCarthy as the new majority leader.
“He was confident, as I am, that Eric has great things left to do in the future,” said Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., of Boehner’s remarks.
Cantor, 51, responded with some of his own expressions of appreciation, including to his staff.
Of course, Cantor’s departure from the leadership ranks comes not by choice, but as a result of his stunning Virginia primary-election defeat in June to a tea-party-backed challenger. After his primary loss, he announced he would be stepping down as majority leader — and set July 31 as the date.
He says he plans to stick around as a member until the end of this year.
As majority leader since 2011, Cantor has been in charge of setting the House floor-vote agenda, something that sometimes caused tension with conservatives and others.
His term as Boehner’s No. 2 also has been marked — particularly in the initial years — with speculation or perceptions that he was ruthlessly pursing the speaker’s post.
But on Tuesday, little of that seemed important.
The closed-door session with colleagues likely represented his last GOP Conference meeting as majority leader, with the House set to break later this week for its recess over August and early September.
What was in the highlight film?
“Oh, it was just a recognition of Eric’s leadership, and really celebrating what his leadership has done for us,” Thompson said. He said it extended from the day Cantor’s name was put on the House floor, originally, as the majority leader, to highlights from some of his speeches.
Apparently, not everyone was watching intently, though.
“I don’t mean to be ugly. I just didn’t watch it that close,” said Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., one of the Republicans who frequently differed with Cantor on legislation.
The highlight video was put together by staffers of the House Republican Conference. A spokesman said conference chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers “wanted to do a tribute highlighting all of his work as majority leader.”