Aug. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will not serve out his term in Congress, announcing he will resign Aug. 18 in a Virginia newspaper opinion article and interview.
The Virginia Republican told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he has asked Governor Terry McAuliffe to schedule a special election that coincides with the general election on Nov. 4. His term would have ended at 11:59 a.m. on Jan. 3, 2015.
“I want to make sure that the constituents in the 7th District will have a voice in what will be a very consequential lame-duck session,” Cantor wrote in the newspaper.
Cantor, who served in Congress for 14 years, lost the Republican primary in June to a relatively unknown conservative, David Brat, who had Tea Party support. He said he hoped Brat would succeed him after the general election.
“The issues that will be considered during the lame-duck session this year will be crucial to the future of our country, Cantor wrote. ‘‘These debates will continue into the new Congress, and the people of this district deserve to have their new voice representing them and engaging on their behalf.’’
For now, the number of House vacancies stands at two: the North Carolina seat formerly held by Democrat Mel Watt, who became head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and the New Jersey seat that had been held by Democrat Rob Andrews, who left in February. Republicans in the House may gain between five and eight seats in the midterm elections, according to Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.
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.
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.
Spokeswoman Megan Whittemore said Cantor would have no additional comments aside from his article.
Cantor announced at a press conference June 11 that he would step down as majority leader July 31 while maintaining that ‘‘I intend to serve out my term as a member of Congress.”
Cantor didn’t reveal his future plans.
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, took over as majority leader from Cantor yesterday.
On his last day as House majority leader, Cantor said that the U.S. must make leadership abroad a priority to ensure peace.
“Never before have I been more worried about the prospects of that peace due to our diminished engagement on the world stage,” he said in a speech on the House floor. He said lawmakers also must fight to improve education for children who live in poorer areas.
Calling it an “honor and a privilege” to serve as majority leader, “walking on this floor is something that has excited me every day since I was first elected to Congress,” Cantor said.
He said democracy is always messy.
“We don’t always see eye-to-eye even with our own parties in this chamber. But that’s how it’s supposed to be,” he said.
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