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Eric Cantor’s disconcerting defeat pushes Republicans to the right
Key legislation, reforms in peril after David Brat’s primary win
Question of the Day
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s surprising defeat sent shockwaves across Capitol Hill on Wednesday, with lawmakers from both parties saying it has doomed immigration reform this year and may derail several other major bills.
House Republicans will move to the right and harden conservative stances to avoid the fate suffered by Mr. Cantor, they said, which will make it even harder to forge already-difficult bipartisan compromises needed to send major legislation to President Obama’s desk.
“Every bill is jeopardized now,” said Rep. Brian Higgins, New York Democrat. “It will make it much more difficult to advance any kind of legislative agenda in a bipartisan way.”
Members of the House Tea Party Caucus said they expect a more conservative leadership team to take over when the conference elects a new majority leader and whip June 19.
Mr. Brat made immigration a particular focus of his attacks, accusing Mr. Cantor of working to help pass a plan that would legalize most illegal immigrants — which critics call “amnesty.”
Fellow House lawmakers said Mr. Cantor’s defeat firmly put to rest any thought the House would take up legalization bills this year.
“It becomes even more of a third rail,” said Rep. Phil Gingrey, Georgia Republican.
Lawmakers pointed to other important legislation that are on deck for a House vote but suddenly could face a tougher conservative challenge, including:
• The reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, or TRIA, that provides a backstop for insurance claims related to acts of terrorism and will expire at the end of the year.
• A bill to replenish the Highway Trust Fund, a transportation and infrastructure fund financed by gasoline taxes that is set to run out by the end of the summer.
• The reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, a credit agency that helps U.S. companies sell goods oversees but which conservatives oppose as a form of “corporate welfare.” It expires at the end of September.
Asked about whether the Export-Import Bank bill and other measures were now in jeopardy, Mr. Cantor said that he was confident that “a full set of bills” would pass, including TRIA and legislation that would combat human trafficking. He didn’t mention the Import Export Bank, Highway Trust Fund or immigration.
“There’s a lot of things in motion,” Mr. Cantor told reporters at a press conference where he announced that he would step down as majority leader July 31. “We will continue to work and hopefully the Senate will reciprocate so that we can get work done for the American people.”
He dismissed concerns about the split between tea party and establishment Republicans affecting the legislative agenda.
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About the Author
Steven A Miller
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