U.S. House Republican No. 2 Cantor to step down after election shock

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – A shock primary election defeat for Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, left his political party in chaos yesterday as financial markets worried the shakeup might renew budget fights that in the past have caused government shutdowns and near credit defaults.

Cantor, who has served as House Majority Leader since 2011, unexpectedly lost in Tuesday’s vote to college economics professor David Brat, who has strong support from the Tea Party movement and grass-roots activists who want to reduce federal government spending and taxes and advocate for a smaller government. The defeat put an end to Cantor’s quest for an eighth term but he will serve out his current term through this year. It also brought an abrupt halt to Cantor’s career as a rising star who had his eye on the top job of Speaker.

House Speaker John Boehner cried during a closed-door meeting of House Republicans, according to some who attended. Praising Cantor’s work as majority leader, he said: “We’ve been through a lot together.”

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