Rep. Eric Cantor, the Virginia Republican who was defeated in a primary election Tuesday by tea-party challenger Dave Brat, will step down as House Majority Leader.
Cantor’s upset defeat has repercussions far beyond Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, and even far beyond the Beltway. When the second-most-powerful Republican in Congress is taken down by a challenge from within his own party, the political and policy implications are sure to be significant. Here are a few:
1.) Immigration reform
Cantor’s loss probably means any shred of chance for comprehensive immigration reform in the foreseeable future is now gone.
One of Brat’s biggest criticisms of Cantor was that Cantor favored “amnesty” by supporting some sort of path to citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants. Actually, Politico is reporting that a poll found most of the voters in that district – including most Republicans – favor a plan that would include letting undocumented immigrants without criminal records gain legal status.
Nonetheless, I think the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza is right when he says Cantor’s defeat will make any House Republican who’d been considering supporting some similar reform think again.
Meanwhile, immigration reform activists say Cantor’s loss is the nail in the coffin, and so are urging President Obama to offer deportation relief and other forms of administrative relief immediately.
2.) California’s clout
Cantor was the GOP’s number two in the House; House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, is number three. But Cantor’s loss doesn’t necessarily mean McCarthy’s ascension – a bunch of House Republicans already are jockeying to snap up Cantor’s post.
As both a Californian and a national GOP leader, McCarthy has had to walk a knife-edge on immigration reform; he has called for legal status, though perhaps not citizenship, for undocumented immigrants without criminal records. If Cantor’s loss makes House Republicans gun-shy about speaking up on immigration reform, McCarthy – along with other California Republicans like Jeff Denham and David Valadao – may be in the majority’s minority, and that’s not a great place to be when you’re gunning for a higher party leadership post.
More, after the jump…