Eric Cantor is expected to announce his plan to resign as House majority leader today, probably at a meeting of all House Republicans. Cantor lost the GOP primary to David Brat, a little-known college professor, in Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District on Tuesday.
His loss to Brat and his decision to step down as majority leader mark an abrupt halt to Cantor’s rise as a Republican leader and political star. Cantor had previously been regarded as a strong candidate to replace House speaker John Boehner should he resign next year.
Remaining in his post as number two in the House Republican hierarchy appeared to be untenable. He lacked the political capital needed to do the job, which includes deciding what bills reach the House floor and when.
The race to replace Cantor began soon after he lost his bid for an eighth House term. House GOP whip Kevin McCarthy of California and Pete Sessions of Texas quickly started making calls to other Republicans to ask for their support for majority leader.
McCarthy is close to Cantor, who picked him as chief deputy minority whip after the 2008 election. After Republicans captured the House in 2010, he was elected majority whip.
It is unclear how McCarthy’s ties to Cantor will affect his bid for majority leader. McCarthy is one of the most popular members within the House Republican Conference. As such, he may begin with an advantage over Sessions, who ran the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2010 when Republicans won 63 House seats.
Two candidates have emerged to replace McCarthy as whip. One is Peter Roskam of Illinois, who was chosen by McCarthy to be his deputy. The other is Steve Scalise of Louisiana, an influential player in the House and the head of the conservative Republican Study Committee.
Others are likely to seek either the majority leader or whip positions. Cathy McMorris Rogers of Washington is the highest ranking woman in the Republican leadership. She could run for either position. Tom Price of Georgia, who will become chairman of House Budget Committee next year assuming Republicans keep control, is well thought of as a leader.
Then there is Jeb Hensarling of Texas, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. If Cantor had won yesterday and Boehner stepped down in 2015, he was seen as a likely opponent of Cantor to become the next speaker.
The Washington Post was the first to report Cantor’s decision to quit his leadership post.