Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 13, 2016

Eric Cantor’s Defeat Was in the Immigration Tea Leaves (Video)

Many immigration advocates thought Eric Cantor’s expected primary victory against his challenger opposed to an immigration overhaul would embolden the House majority leader to put an immigration bill on the floor this summer.

That theory, or at least that closely held hope, was obliterated Tuesday evening, as the Virginia Republican suffered a stunning defeat at the hands of university professor Dave Brat.

The tea leaves for Cantor’s fate might have been read by the most prescient political observers two weeks ago in his home district of Richmond, where Brat held a press conference on the steps of the state capitol building to denounce the House’s No. 2 Republican for having the “most liberal” record on immigration of any sitting GOP lawmaker in Congress.

“Eric Cantor has been the No. 1 cheerleader in Congress for amnesty,” said Brat on May 28 to half a dozen reporters, referencing Cantor’s stated support for overhauling the nation’s immigration system and providing a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants, especially those brought into the country illegally by their parents.

“There is no Republican in this country,” Brat continued, “who is more liberal on immigration than Eric Cantor.”

At first blush, the statement sounded hyperbolic at best: Cantor has consistently held the party’s establishment position that rewriting the immigration code is an important priority but always stopped far short of supporting the Senate’s immigration bill, much loathed by Republicans, and Cantor stuck to the leadership talking point that an immigration overhaul was stalled because of distrust of President Barack Obama.

He backed the immigration principles released by GOP leaders in January although only a tiny minority of the conference were willing to follow suit and go on the record to back them.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)


He had generally kept his distance on the issue from Democrats or rank-and-file Republicans pushing the hardest for an immigration overhaul, like Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., or the three House Republicans who signed onto the House Democrats’ pseudo-companion bill to the Senate legislation: Reps. David Valadao and Jeff Denham, both of California, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.

And Cantor, fearing the wrath of staunch and Tea Party conservatives on immigration, tacked to the far-right as the primary drew near. In campaign literature, he issued statements using calling touting his role in opposing “amnesty” and he was accused by Democrats of slow-walking immigration legislation out of fear of retribution from opponents.

Brat accused Cantor of trying to overplay his opposition to advancing an immigration bill after he had already carved out a record of being in favor of one. His rhetoric was loud, confrontational and provocative, crafting a narrative for his base that was hard to drown out as Cantor went about his business in Washington, D.C.

Brat purposefully held his May 28 press conference on the same day Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill., also visited Richmond to participate in a rally to implore Cantor not to bow to political pressure. Brat said that Gutierrez and Cantor were “in cahoots,” with Gutierrez’ visit designed to actually bolster Cantor by feigning outrage over Cantor’s allegedly manufactured opposition to an immigration overhaul.

Gutierrez at the time denied he was there for political purposes.

“People might think we’re here because there’s a primary next week. Nothing could be farther from the truth,” Gutierrez told supporters assembled at his event, organized by CASA de Virginia, many of whom held signs reading “Cantor: the one man blocking immigration reform,” and “Eric Cantor: Give us a vote.”

“The primary is really irrelevant to us,” Gutierrez continued. “We’re here because the majority leader, Eric Cantor, controls the agenda of the Congress of the United States. And we have come here to say … stop being an obstacle, stop being in the way.”

Like it or not, Gutierrez will have his wish in January.

But while Gutierrez might not have been looking to oust Cantor, CASA de Virginia ultimately appeared to have a different agenda. Following Cantor’s concession speech on Tuesday night, about 70 immigration activists affiliated with the organization stormed his campaign headquarters.

“Congressman Cantor should have listened to his constituents and this is why he lost,” said one activist who hails from Cantor’s district, Raul Benitez, in a statement.

“Eric Cantor lost because he was a pretend tea partier,” added Lindolfo Carballo, a leader of the Tuesday protest. “Voters, faith and business leaders, and more all agree that we need a real leader to end the suffering of our families.”

Pro-immigration overhaul groups also weighed in on Tuesday to attribute Cantor’s loss to his alleged anti-immigration overhaul stance.

“Let’s be clear: Eric Cantor was no friend of immigration reform. He’s been the main person in the House blocking a vote on citizenship, and he proudly campaigned on his opposition to reform,” said America’s Voice executive director Frank Sharry in a written statement, alluding to Cantor’s recent move to block consideration of an amendment on the floor to the fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill that would have let undocumented immigrations attain citizenship in exchange for military service.

“Too bad Rep. Cantor didn’t steal a page from Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who leaned into the issue, was unapologetic about his principled stand and won his primary handily,” Sharry said. “Elections are referendums on an incumbent’s leadership ability. Graham won big. Cantor lost big.”

Related stories:

Eric Cantor Loses Primary in Massive Upset (Video)

Republican Senate Primary Challengers Jump on Eric Cantor Loss

Eric Cantor’s Defeat Was in the Immigration Tea Leaves

On Immigration, the Pressure Mounts for Eric Cantor

10 Republicans Who Could Be Speaker

Cantor’s Pediatric Research Bill Could Have Been a Bust

Eric Cantor: A Brief Biography

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  • Dave Francis


    PARTY? House Majority

    Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has lost his GOP primary to conservative challenger

    Dave Brat TEA PARTY LEADER) in Virginia’s 7th Congressional


    Eric Cantor turn on the U.S. taxpayer by

    potentially giving illegal aliens AMNESTY? In VIRGINIA TO VOTE YOU MUST SHOW


    is times like this we dread what President Obama and what elected instigators

    will do? When there is a catastrophe like the VA administration nightmare in Washington that is when we must

    be intensely vigilant because that is when we become most taken advantage of,

    carefully, methodically orchestrated behind closed doors. With the political

    limelight and the nation’s attention focused on Obamacare and the consequent

    shambles of other issues we must be ever more careful, wary and vigilant. It is

    times like these when bills and plans slip through quietly and get signed into

    law as with Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act).

    And such is the case with the amnesty bill. We must not and

    will not allow Congress to grant amnesty to more than 20 million illegal

    aliens. The cost is far too high for taxpayers. This administration under Obama

    has refused to enforce the border and thousands are now pouring through at an

    alarming rate. Patriots, our message must be heard all over Washington and the one way we

    know it will? Send every member of the House and Senate a loud message; call

    your Senators and House members and demand, not ask “Pretty Please” to not vote

    on any Immigration Reform, no Amnesty or Path to Citizenship. Top Democrat

    negotiator, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is insisting that Obama block all

    deportations if amnesty fails.

    Recently, the Obama

    announced it would stop deporting illegal aliens who entered the United States as children. So suddenly without warning we are seeing

    appearance of crowds or children edged on by parents to gain admittance under

    this incompetent government that ignores the U.S. Constitution. Should Congress not agree to pass amnesty,
    Gutierrez wants

    that order for Amnesty extended to all 20 million illegal aliens. Rise up

    against the most anti-American president in the history of our nation. He has

    allowed 36,000 alcohol-abusing, drug using, sexual predators and other

    criminals to flood our backyards-and millions more are coming if Obama gets his

    way with amnesty. We just can’t let that happen or we will be living in a fear

    24/7, paying more taxes just to pay for illegal aliens who feed off hardworking

    Americans. Obama says amnesty will make our communities safer—that is a plague,

    bring overpopulation in cities and shortages of drinking water.

    Obama and the Democrats are pushing hard for (UNCONDITIONAL
    PARDON) amnesty.

    There is too much at risk for them politically. The repercussions of granting

    amnesty are devastating, yet Obama has the audacity to tell Americans:

    “It’s good for our economy. It’s good for our national security. It’s good

    for our people, and we should do it this year.” Yes! The only entities

    it’s good for is corporate and big business employers, Unions, faith groups and

    a whole bandwidth of greedy special interests. In truth, it’s all a big fat

    Any amnesty will be painful for the lower and middle class. Wages will be

    bottomed out, and benefits that are usually added to most full time work are

    likely to be eradicated. All it’s good for is VOTES and that is all this has

    ever been about. In 2012, Obama won 71 percent of the Latino vote. Unknown

    numbers of individuals fraudulently voted with no penal repercussions; the

    Acorn group registering anybody with a pulse or not? But then any nefarious

    issue beginning with the “Fast and Furious” gun running scheme to Mexico, not one person ended

    up in handcuffs.

    Vote-grabbing is the
    very reason some hard right Republicans have turned on us.

    John McCain has said it about most blatantly: “We’ll pass the bill once

    primaries are over.” McCain campaigned on closing the borders and once he

    reelected he flipped and became a champion of immigration reform. He wants it

    both ways. He can’t have it both ways. The National TEA PARTY is our ONLY

    savior, because you cannot trust the two majors, except a small few. The career

    politicians will give away anything and sign any bill that will keep paychecks

    coming in. Obama has his sights set on destroying America. We have seen him

    trample the Constitution and blatantly disregard the law time and again. Now he

    is at it again with his push to grant amnesty to millions of illegals. He

    already released more than 36,000 illegal aliens who were felons, awaiting

    deportation. Everything is at stake here. THE TEA PARTY LEADERS have split from

    the financial carrion, trying to breathe life back into the American dream. We

    cannot do that with freeloaders from other countries. They will abolish the IRS

    and restructure it, or offer a flat tax for everyone. Entering America without papers will

    become a felony, not the slap on the hand. All agencies of the government will

    be held accountable for criminal acts. Washington agencies will be
    reduced or


    • Layla

      If Congress will not impeach this President, the American people will vote in a new Congress.

      • Vladimir Purishkevich

        Congress will not impeach the president. The American people may or may not elect a “new” congress. (New faces; same agenda.) Once the illegals are voters, you may as well look for another nation. You will not recognize this one when Congress becomes little more than a revolutionary tribunal. That’s what is at stake with amnesty.

        • Layla

          If the GOP lose, it will be because of their agenda, same for the Democrats. The people in this country are able to make ends meet. They are still losing homes, jobs. And they know they must vote this out if they expect things to improve. They know their country is on the line. BIG MISTAKE for any Member of Congress not to realize that.

  • Forums4Justice

    Corporate Legalization Amnesty Pukes (CLAP)
    House Republican Legalization Amnesty Pukes

  • Forums4Justice

    Reasoning for E-Verify
    #NoLegalization #NoAmnesty #p2 #tcot

  • Layla

    Do not make the mistake of thinking this was not about an immigration overhaul. It absolutely was. The American people have had it with our authoritarian government.

    • erick

      But isn’t defeeting a candidate painfull? That seems too cruel even for the tea party.

      • Layla

        The Tea Party doesn’t exist. It is a state of mind. Why do you think the GOP hate them so? Because they know candidates are getting into position to replace the current Congress with Constitutional candidates. The Tea Party are the American people and we are going to vote Congress out.

  • telmog

    Another Republican that blocked immigration reform is out.
    Simple as that.

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