WASHINGTON -- Former Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) learned on Friday that at one point, while serving as House majority leader, he'd been on the cusp of achieving his life goal to become the first Jewish speaker of the House in U.S. history.
Two years ago, HuffPost reported, citing sources close to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), that the speaker planned to step down after the 2014 elections. Boehner's office denied the report. And sure enough, he went on to serve in the speaker's post well into 2015.
On Friday morning, however, Boehner abruptly announced that he would be resigning from Congress by the end of October. And in a statement, a Boehner aide confirmed that he had already stayed on nine months longer than he'd originally planned.
"The Speaker’s plan was to serve only through the end of last year. Leader Cantor’s loss in his primary changed that calculation," said the Boehner aide.
Cantor's 2014 primary loss was not just a remarkable political turn of events, but a complete twist of history. The Virginia Republican, who had served as second in command in the Republican-controlled House, was stunned in his primary election campaign and decided to leave Congress altogether before his term was up. With no heir apparent, Boehner decided to stick around. But the clear implication from Boehner's aide was that the original plan had been to usher Cantor into the speaker's role at the turn of the year.
The Jews, indeed, have struck out again. Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) had aspirations of being the first Jewish speaker, but he downsized his career goals in 1987 when he publicly revealed that he was gay. Former Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) likewise looked at one point like he could become the first Jewish speaker. But he left the House to serve as President Barack Obama's chief of staff and, subsequently, to become mayor of Chicago.
A spokesman for Cantor said that he would not be reacting to the Boehner news today.