The American Congress is about to lose it’s only Jewish Republican Congressman.
The only Jewish Republican member of the US House of Representatives, Eric Cantor, will be stepping down next January now that he has lost his bid for reelection in the Republican Party primary held yesterday. That is, unless, he chooses to run again in November’s general election as either an independent or an affiliate of another party.
While there are a number of prominent Jewish Republicans in America, today the vast majority of American Jews identify with the more liberal Democratic Party.
The current House Majority Leader lost to David Brat, a college economics professor, by 11 points, 56% to 45%. The position of majority leader is the second most powerful in the House after the Speakership. Cantor was, until now, considered a favorite by many to succeed the current House Speaker, Republican John Boehner of Indiana.
This marks the first time that a sitting House Majority leader has ever lost in a primary election.
Cantor, 53, is currently in his seventh term as the representative from the State of Virginia’s Seventh Congressional district, which includes most of the northern and western sections of Richmond, along with most of Richmond’s western suburbs and portions of the Shenandoah Valley. He first won election in 2000.
His defeat can be accredited to the powerful conservative Republican movement known as the Tea Party, an acronym for taxed enough already. The name is also a reference to the famous 18th century act of rebellion by Massachusetts colonists against harsh British taxation before America’s independence in which they dumped a load of imported tea off of a ship into Boston harbor.
Mr. Cantor, however, has been nothing in his tenure if not a consummate conservative. This is why so many political observers were shocked by the election results. Cantor was not thought to be vulnerable to a challenge from his right as certain more moderate Republicans have been in recent years.
Since he became the majority leader more than three years ago, Cantor took the lead in opposing President Obama on domestic legislation. Last year he was credited with orchestrating a government shut down when the Republican controlled House refused to authorize continued spending unless President Obama agreed to major spending cuts.
The central issue at the time was an attempt by the Republicans to end President Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act by defunding it. Majority Leader Cantor was also a vocal leader in the Republican campaign to undue the Affordable Care Act.
But, according to polls, the key issue that undid him was immigration. While Cantor has taken a strong stance against illegal immigration, he has supported a plan which would allow some illegal immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to become permanent residents.
The Congressman has been a strong supporter of Israel. He cosponsored legislation to cut off all U.S. taxpayer aid to the Palestinian Authority and opposed a congressionally approved three-year package of $400 million in aid for the Palestinian Authority in 2000.
Just after the 2010 midterm elections, Cantor met privately with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and promised that “the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration” and “made clear that the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States.”
Born in Richmond Virginia, Cantor is the descendant of East European Jewish immigrants. He served for ten years in the Virginia House of Delegates before moving on the US Congress. In 2002, just after winning a second term, Cantor was appointed Chief Deputy Republican Whip, the highest appointed position in the Republican caucus.
In 2008, while his party was in the minority, Cantor was elected by his peers to be the Republican Whip which is the second highest position in the House minority. In January 2011, after the Republicans retook control of the House in the previous elections, Cantor was elected House Majority Leader.
Congressman Cantor graduated from the George Washington University in Washington DC in 1985. He received a law degree from Virginia’s William & Mary Law School in 1988 and a Master of Science in Real Estate Development from Columbia University in 1989.