Cantor says he will resign seat Aug. 18; bids farewell to House colleagues

Eric Cantor, the departing House majority leader stunned by a June 10 upset in Virginia's primary, announced Friday morning that he would also resign altogether from Congress, effective Aug. 18. After giving a farewell address to House colleagues Thursday, Cantor told the Richmond  Times-Dispatch that he would also resign his seat and allow his expected successor, nominee David Brat, to get an edge in seniority by taking office in November rather than January.

Cantor stepped down as House majority leader Thursday, thanking colleagues in both parties, his staff and family, as well as offering a warning about the United States' role on the world stage.

After losing his Virginia primary to tea party challenger Dave Brat last month, Cantor announced that he would step down as majority leader on July 31 but would keep his seat until his term ends in January.

Cantor told the assembled House members that it has been “an honor and a privilege” to serve as majority leader, but he warned “our nation and our economy cannot meet its full potential if we in America aren't leading abroad.” Citing the ongoing crises in the Middle East and Ukraine, Cantor said “never before have I been more worried about our prospects of peace due to our diminished engagement on the world stage."

"Instability and terror seem to be coming from every corner of the globe," he said. "The Middle East in chaos, Iran marching to towards a nuclear weapon, and Russia has reverted to a Cold War footing and invaded Ukraine.”

“We’ve got to make leadership abroad a priority," he said.

Cantor also paid tribute to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who broke down and dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief during the speech. Cantor told the House that Boehner provided an “example of firm leadership" as well as "not being afraid for showing us all your kind heart and soft spot from time to time.”

Cantor also thanked Boehner for his "patience" during their regular meetings, which occurred at least once a day, every day the House has been in session for the past five years.

Cantor noted that the signing of the bipartisan Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, which diverted $126 million of federal funds to tackle childhood cancer and other pediatric diseases and disorders, as one of his proudest moments as majority leader.

After closing by thanking his colleagues for “their service, their friendship and their warmth,” Cantor received a standing ovation for several minutes from across the House chamber and received hugs from two of his closest allies — his "closest friend and confidant," incoming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).

Sebastian Payne is a national reporter with The Washington Post. He is the Post’s 35th Laurence Stern fellow.
Paul Kane covers Congress and politics for the Washington Post.
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