Eric Cantor Just Delivered His Last Floor Speech as House Majority Leader

The No. 2 House Republican will officially step down from his post at midnight Thursday.

National Journal
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Marina Koren
July 31, 2014, 8:10 a.m.

On Thursday, Eric Can­tor asked to ad­dress the House floor for one minute. The Re­pub­lic­an from Vir­gin­ia spoke for longer than that, but the speak­er didn’t cut him off. Can­tor’s re­marks were to be his last as House ma­jor­ity lead­er.

“Walk­ing in­to this build­ing and walk­ing on to this floor is something that ex­cited me every day since I was first elec­ted to Con­gress,” Can­tor told a packed room, call­ing his job the “priv­ilege of a life­time.”

“I have truly lived the Amer­ic­an dream,” he ad­ded.

Can­tor of­fi­cially steps down as House ma­jor­ity lead­er, a post he has held since 2011, at mid­night Thursday. Rep. Kev­in Mc­Carthy, R-Cal­if., whom Can­tor called his “closest con­fid­ant,” re­places him. Can­tor lost his Re­pub­lic­an Vir­gin­ia primary in June to a near-un­known chal­lenger, an out­come that stunned Wash­ing­ton.

The out­go­ing No. 2 House Re­pub­lic­an lis­ted a num­ber of policy is­sues fa­cing the na­tion. “Dur­ing my time here, we have made some pro­gress on some of these is­sues,” he said, re­fer­ring to edu­ca­tion and eco­nom­ic in­equal­ity, “but frankly, not enough.”

He had pos­it­ive words for fu­ture le­gis­la­tion. “This Con­gress, the House, has passed many bills, some of which were bi­par­tis­an, to help cre­ate jobs and op­por­tun­it­ies for those who des­per­ately need them,” he said. “I hope more of those bills will make it to the pres­id­ent’s desk be­fore year’s end.”

His out­look on for­eign policy was a little dark­er. “I shud­der to think what the world looks like in five years for us and our al­lies if we don’t steel our re­solve and stand tall with those who stand with us,” Can­tor said.

The con­gress­man’s re­marks soun­ded a little like a gradu­ation speech as he thanked his fam­ily, staff, fel­low House mem­bers, and Speak­er John Boehner.

Can­tor ac­know­ledged that he and Boehner didn’t al­ways see eye to eye, “but that’s how it’s sup­posed to be.” To Boehner, Can­tor said: “Thank you for the ex­ample of firm lead­er­ship you show and at the same time for not be­ing afraid to show us all your kind heart on your soft spot from time to time.” Boehner ap­peared to re­veal said soft spot, as re­port­ers in the room say the speak­er began to tear up and reached for a handker­chief.

Can­tor’s re­marks re­ceived a stand­ing ova­tion and sev­er­al rounds of cheers. The law­maker re­ceived the same re­sponse dur­ing a closed-door meet­ing of Re­pub­lic­ans on Tues­day, which fea­tured a high­light reel of Can­tor’s most mem­or­able mo­ments in Con­gress.

Can­tor has kept a low pro­file in re­cent weeks. Since his de­feat in June, he has not ap­peared at a GOP lead­er­ship press con­fer­ence and has missed 30 floor votes, or about 20 per­cent, The Hill re­por­ted Wed­nes­day. He will stay on as a mem­ber of Con­gress un­til the end of this year.

Can­tor has said that al­though his primary loss “ab­so­lutely” shocked him, he’s not go­ing to dwell on it. “There are things that hap­pen for a reas­on, and we may not be able to really dis­cern it now,” he said in a Sunday talk-show ap­pear­ance. “And, giv­en the per­spect­ive of time, I think we’ll be able to look back at this, which seemed really bad at the time, may turn out to be really good.”