Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Wednesday endorsed House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to replace him as House majority leader, less than a day after Cantor’s surprising primary loss to a relatively unknown Republican challenger.
Cantor made his endorsement just minutes after telling House Republicans that he would step down from his leadership position at the end of July. GOP leaders have already set up a June 19 election to replace Cantor.
“I don’t know who it is that will actually be running,” Cantor told reporters. “I can tell you that if my dear friend and colleague Kevin McCarthy does decide to run, I think he’d make an outstanding majority leader, and I will be backing him with my full support.”
GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) has already said she will not run for Cantor’s spot on the leadership team, but House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) is expected to run.
Cantor used the Wednesday briefing to defend his record as majority leader, and said he helped the House reduce spending dramatically. “We forced a reduction of spending in Washington in consecutive years for the first time since the Korean War,” he said.
He also rejected the criticism that nothing gets done in Washington, and blamed the Democratic Senate for ignoring dozens of House bills aimed at creating jobs.
“There’s a stack of bills sitting in the Senate that shows House Republicans do get things done,” he said.
But Cantor declined to answer several questions about why he lost to newcomer David Brat, including whether he was in Washington too much or whether his position on immigration hurt him in the race. “I’m going to leave the political analysis to y’all,” he repeated a few times.
He also declined to say what he would be doing next. “That is probably between my wife and me,” he said.