June 11, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Cantor said to leave House leadership July 31

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (MANDEL NGAN / AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor plans to step aside from his leadership post on July 31, following his primary election loss and with several leading Republicans jockeying to run for his No. 2 position.

The Virginia Republican’s planned resignation was confirmed Wednesday by a person familiar with Cantor’s plans.

Among those expected to seek Cantor’s job are Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, chairwoman of the House Republican conference and the top Republican woman in House leadership. She is weighing bids for majority leader or whip, according to a Republican aide.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, the chamber’s third-ranking Republican and one of Cantor’s closest allies, also is expected to vie for his job, one lawmaker said.

Representative Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Rules Committee, is planning to run for majority leader as well, said a Republican aide who requested anonymity to speak ahead of an announcement.

House Republicans plan to hold a private meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday, said a party aide who sought anonymity.

Cantor, who overwhelmingly outspent an intra-party rival, lost a Virginia congressional primary election yesterday to Tea Party-backed David Brat, a college professor who attacked the seven-term lawmaker’s stance on immigration.

Cantor had been considered the front-runner to become the next speaker of the House, succeeding John Boehner of Ohio.

The speaker had made no push for Cantor to step aside, according to a Republican lawmaker close to Boehner. This lawmaker also called McCarthy the clear favorite to succeed the majority leader.

Cantor’s historic election defeat — no House majority leader had lost re-election back home since the post was created in 1899 — spurred an instant struggle for power at the highest levels of the Republican-run House in Washington.

Representatives Peter Roskam, an Illinois Republican who serves as the House’s chief deputy whip, and Steve Scalise of Louisiana will run for whip, according to Republican aides familiar with their plans.

“The campaign has begun,” Representative Peter King, a New York Republican, said today of Cantor remaining majority leader through the November elections. Without naming names, he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program that he started getting e-mails from people campaigning for Cantor’s leadership post last night.

Cantor’s loss has widely been interpreted as stemming from a combination of factors.

Brat, a professor at Randolph-Macon College in Richmond, Virginia, with a doctorate in economics and master’s degree in divinity, challenged Cantor as sympathetic to attempts by House leaders to enact immigration laws that President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats are seeking.

Brat characterized Cantor as an influential Washington player paying attention to his role as a leader rather than voters in Virginia. Relatively low turnout in a congressional primary enabled Brat’s motivated allies to outnumber any support that Cantor could claim, with the newcomer defeating the veteran lawmaker by more than 10 percentage points.

“You can’t run campaigns from Washington,” King said.

The prospects for revamping the nation’s immigration laws aren’t all that are dashed by the impending House leadership struggle and the ways in which Republicans will interpret the implications of Cantor’s loss, he said.

“A lot of things are going to be dead,” King said. “Thank God there’s no debt-ceiling vote coming up.”

In his election campaign, Brat made compromise over raising the nation’s debt limit one of his complaints over Cantor’s leadership in Washington.

The last vote to raise the debt ceiling was cast in February 2014. Another vote isn’t expected to be necessary until the middle of 2015, following midterm elections in which Republicans are attempting to grab control of the Senate and keep their House majority.

Cantor’s willingness to negotiate was one of his strengths, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. President Gary Cohn. “For financial markets and for Main Street and Wall Street, that’s an issue that we’re dealing with today more than we were dealing with yesterday at this time,” Cohn said in an interview on Bloomberg Television Wednesday.

“Eric stood out on some of the tough issues,” Cohn said. “He stood out on immigration. He was willing to talk about immigration. He was willing to talk about tax reform. He was willing to talk about the environment. He was willing to talk about sticky issues that were sticky for Republicans.”

The Virginia upset followed a lopsided contest: Cantor reported raising $5.4 million for his campaign through May 21 while Brat raised $207,000, in the latest data available at the Federal Election Commission.

Cantor’s campaign aired 1,038 television ads, some attacking Brat as a “liberal college professor.” The professor’s campaign ran 65 ads, according to New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks ads.