Cantor upset shocks Capitol Hill, threatens to stall immigration debate

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House GOP Leader Eric Cantor’s primary loss has sent shockwaves through Capitol Hill, with sources warning that the historic upset could have a “destabilizing” effect on party leadership and sideline key legislation.

“Everybody is just in shock right now,” Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., said.

Cantor, a seven-term Virginia congressman, was defeated in Tuesday’s primary by Dave Brat, a little-known economics professor with Tea Party backing. He won in part by hammering Cantor over immigration, accusing him of supporting “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

That strategy immediately raises questions about the fate of immigration legislation in Congress. GOP leaders had been giving conflicting signals over whether they would try to advance some version of what the Senate passed, perhaps after the primaries.

But Cantor’s loss could send immigration talks into a deep freeze. Opponents of the proposed legislation pointed to Brat’s victory as a lesson to other members.

“The wage-earning voters of Rep. Cantor’s district apparently felt abandoned by his immigration positions that virtually ignored their anxiety about stagnant wages and high unemployment and that projected primary concern for unlawful foreign visitors and employers seeking more foreign workers,” NumbersUSA President Roy Beck said in a statement.

Democrats hoping for an immigration deal this year were evidently nervous about Cantor’s loss. White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer offered this assurance on Twitter: “Cantor’s problem wasn’t his position on immigration reform, it was his lack of a position.” He noted that Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., “wrote and passed a bill and is winning big.”

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