House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said he would focus his future on being a “champion” for conservatism, but will give up his leadership post in the lower chamber at the end of July.
At the first press conference since last night’s loss to economics professor Dave Brat, Cantor first referred to “growing up in the Jewish faith” and learning the Old Testament at Hebrew school: “You learn a lot about the setbacks … each setback is an opportunity.”
Despite last night’s “setback,” he said, “I couldn’t be more optimistic about the future of this country.”
“People often lament what is wrong with this town; I want to remind you of what’s right… these are the people flying across the country each week” working for constituents, he noted of his colleagues, “on both sides of the aisle.”
Cantor, who made the public statement after meeting privately with the GOP caucus, thanked Hill staffers, the sergeant-at-arms, Capitol Police, and the dignitary protection division as “second to none.”
“We House Republicans have made some tremendous strides,” he noted, including school choice and the reduction of spending in Washington. “We passed bill after bill that would increase take-home pay for middle-class families.”
“House Republicans do get things done; we get a lot done,” Cantor added, noting the “stack of bills” sitting in the Senate waiting for action.
“I will continue to fight for each and every American who’s looking to better themselves,” he said.
While not on the ballot, the majority leader vowed to “be a champion” for conservative causes.
What divides the right “pales in comparison” to differences with the left, he added, chiding voters to put “minor differences” aside in November to elect a GOP Congress.
“While I intend to serve out my term, effective July 31 I will be stepping down as majority leader.”
When asked what went wrong in his primary campaign, Cantor replied, “I’m going to leave the political analysis to y’all.”
“Never was there a day when I did not put the constituents of the 7th District first,” he said, stressing that he did spend time in his district despite weighing that with the demands of a House leadership post.
He also tipped his hat to GOP whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as his successor. “McCarthy would make an outstanding majority leader,” Cantor said. “I will be backing him with my full support.”
McCarthy has reportedly been huddling with committee chairmen ever since last night to shore up his support before the June 19 House leadership election.