Eric Cantor exited the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives with a plea for a “strong” foreign policy and a call for improving education for poor children.
In a speech today on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives that yielded a bipartisan standing ovation, he thanked House Speaker John Boehner for his patience, said the U.S. should engage more deeply in the world and said unequal education systems are the civil rights issue of the era.
“I have truly lived the American Dream,” said Cantor, a Virginia Republican who cited his grandparents’ flight from persecution against Jews in Europe.
Cantor lost a Republican primary June 10 in his Richmond-area district. He’ll be replaced today as majority leader by California’s Kevin McCarthy, who Cantor described as his “closest confidant.” Cantor had said he would serve the rest of his term.
Cantor, 51, had been majority leader since 2011, when Republicans took control of the House. As the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, he was responsible for scheduling votes, corralling an often-fractious party and challenging President Barack Obama.
“We don’t always see eye to eye even within our own parties,” he said. “And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
During Cantor’s time as leader, the U.S. twice came close to running out of borrowing authority and government funding lapsed for more than two weeks.
In his farewell speech, Cantor praised legislation passed earlier this year that provided more money for research into diseases.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, thanked Cantor for his cooperation, even when the parties disagreed.
“His voice will still be a voice of influence and he will make a difference,” Hoyer said.