Eric Ivan Cantor (born June 6, 1963) is the U.S. Representative for Virginia's 7th congressional district, serving since 2001. A member of the Republican Party, he became House Majority Leader when the 112th Congress convened on January 3, 2011. He previously served as House Minority Whip from 2009 to 2011.
His district includes most of the northern and western sections of Richmond, along with most of Richmond's western suburbs and portions of the Shenandoah Valley. Cantor is the only Jewish Republican currently serving in the U.S. Congress, and the highest ranking Jewish member of Congress in its history.
Early life, education and career
Cantor, the second of three children, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Mary Lee (née Hudes), a schoolteacher, and Eddie Cantor, who owned a real estate firm.
His paternal family immigrated from Eastern Europe in the early 1900s and his maternal grandfather was born in Romania. His father was the state treasurer for Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign. Cantor was raised in Conservative Judaism. He graduated from the Collegiate School in 1981. He enrolled at George Washington University (GW) in 1981, and as a freshman he worked as an intern for House Republican Tom Bliley of Virginia and was Bliley's driver in the 1982 campaign. Cantor was a member of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity while at GW and received his Bachelor of Arts in 1985. He earned a Juris Doctor degree from William & Mary Law School in 1988, and received a Master of Science in Real Estate Development from Columbia University in 1989.
Cantor worked for over a decade with his family's business doing legal work and real estate development.
Virginia House of Delegates
Cantor served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1992–January 1, 2001. At various times he was a member of committees on Science and Technology, Corporation Insurance and Banking, General Laws, Courts of Justice, (co-chairman) Claims. Cantor announced on March 14, 2000 that he would seek the seat in the United States House of Representatives that was being vacated by Tom Bliley. Cantor had chaired Bliley's reelection campaigns for the previous six years, and immediately gained the support of Bliley's political organization, as well as Bliley's endorsement later in the primary.
U.S. House of Representatives
During his first term, Cantor was Chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare. He has also served on the House Financial Services Committee and on the House International Relations Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.
In 2002–only a few weeks after winning a second term–Roy Blunt appointed Cantor Chief Deputy Republican Whip, the highest appointed position in the Republican caucus.
On November 19, 2008, Cantor was unanimously elected Republican Whip for the 111th Congress, after serving as Deputy Whip for six years under Blunt. Blunt had decided not to seek reelection to the post after Republican losses in the previous two elections. Cantor was the first member of either party from Virginia to hold the position of Party Whip. As Whip, Cantor was the second-ranking House Republican, behind Minority Leader John Boehner.
He was charged with coordinating the votes and messages of Republican House members. Cantor became the Majority Leader when the 112th Congress took office on January 3, 2011. However, he is still second-in-command to Boehner in the House Republican caucus, as by tradition, the Speaker is considered to be the party leader.
Cantor is a member of the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Republican National Committee. He is one of the Republican Party's top fundraisers, having raised over $30 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). He is also one of the three founding members of the GOP Young Guns Program. New York Times bestselling book, Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders, with the other two founding members of Young Guns. They describe the vision outlined in the book as "a clear agenda based on common sense for the common good." Cantor said in 2010 that he worked with the Tea Party movement in his district.
In the fall of 2010, Cantor wrote a
Campaign office incident
After the passage of the health care reform bill in March 2010, Cantor reported that somebody had shot a bullet through a window of his campaign office in Richmond, Virginia. A spokesman for the Richmond Police later stated that the bullet was not intentionally fired at Cantor's office, saying that it was instead random gunfire, as there were no signs outside the office identifying the office as being Cantor's. A preliminary investigation indicated that the bullet was fired into the air and hit the office window going down. The bullet landed within a foot of the window. Cantor responded to this by saying that Democratic leaders in the House should stop "dangerously fanning the flames" by blaming Republicans for threats against House Democrats who voted for the health care legislation.
Cantor also reported that he had received threatening e-mails related to the passage of the bill, but he declined to hand over copies of the e-mails, saying that doing so would encourage similar activity.
As of December 2010, Cantor is the only Jewish Republican in the United States Congress. He supports strong United States-Israel relations. He cosponsored legislation to cut off all U.S. taxpayer aid to the Palestinian Authority and another bill calling for an end to taxpayer aid to the Palestinians until they stop unauthorized excavations on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Responding to a claim by the State Department that the United States provides no direct aid to the Palestinian Authority, Cantor claimed that United States sends about US$75 million in aid annually to the Palestinian Authority, which is administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development. He opposed a Congressionally approved three-year package of US$400 million in aid for the Palestinian Authority in 2000 and has also introduced legislation to end aid to Palestinians.
In May 2008, Cantor said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a "constant sore" but rather "a constant reminder of the greatness of America", and following Barack Obama's election as President in November 2008, Cantor stated that a “stronger U.S.-Israel relationship” remains a top priority for him and that he would be “very outspoken” if Obama "did anything to undermine those ties." Shortly after the 2010 midterm elections, Cantor met privately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, just before Netanyahu was to meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. According to Cantor's office, he "stressed 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." Cantor was criticized for engaging in foreign policy; one basis for the criticism was that in 2007, after Nancy Pelosi met with the President of Syria, Cantor himself had raised the possibility "that her recent diplomatic overtures ran afoul of the Logan Act, which makes it a felony for any American 'without authority of the United States' to communicate with a foreign government to influence that government’s behavior on any disputes with the United States."
Cantor opposes public funding of embryonic stem cell research and opposes elective abortion. He is rated 100% by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and 0% by NARAL Pro-Choice America, indicating a pro-life voting record. He is also opposed to same-sex marriage, voting to Constitutionally define marriage as between a male and a female in 2006. In November 2007 he voted against prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation. He also supports making flag burning illegal. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) rated him 19% in 2006, indicating an anti-affirmative action voting record. He is opposed to Gun Control, voting to ban product misuse lawsuits on gun manufacturers in 2005, and to ban gun registration and trigger-lock laws in the District of Columbia. He has a rating of "A" from the National Rifle Association (NRA). On Nov. 2, 2010, Cantor told Wolf Blitzer of CNN that he would try to trim the federal deficit by reducing welfare.
Economy, budgeting, and trade
Cantor is a supporter of free trade, voting to promote trade with Peru, Chile, Singapore, and Australia. He also voted for the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). He voted against raising the minimum wage to US$ 7.25 in 2007. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the largest federation of trade unions in the United States, rates Cantor 0%, indicating an anti-Union voting record.
In October 2008, Cantor advocated and voted for the TARP program which aided distressed banks.
On September 29, 2009 Cantor blamed Pelosi for what he felt was the failure of the $700 billion economic bailout bill. He noted that 94 Democrats voted against the measure, as well as 133 Republicans. Though supporting the Federal bailout of the nation's largest private banks, he referred to Pelosi's proposal to appoint a Car czar to run the U.S. Automobile Industry Bailout as a "bureaucratic" imposition on private business.
The following February, Cantor led Republicans in the House of Representatives in voting against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and was a prominent spokesman in voicing the many issues he and his fellow Republicans had with the legislation. Cantor voted in favor of a 90% marginal tax rate increase on taxpayer financed bonuses, despite receiving campaign contributions from TARP recipient Citigroup.
In his book Young Guns, Cantor summarized Keynesian economics with the following opinion, "The idea is that the government can be counted on to spend more wisely than the people."
Recently, Cantor has taken criticism for blocking the Stock Act, which would require Congressman to disclose their stock investments more regularly, and seeks to end insider trading among congress members. The bill comes in response to public outrage over a story aired on the news program 60 Minutes that illustrated how some members have taken advantage of information and power to enrich themselves.
Cantor has proposed intiatives focused on helping small businesses grow, including a 20 percent tax cut for small businesses that employ fewer than 500 people.
Other foreign affairs
In an article he wrote for the National Review in 2007, he condemned Nancy Pelosi's diplomatic visit to Syria, and her subsequent meeting with President Bashar al-Assad, whom he referred to as a "dictator and terror-sponsor"; saying that if "Speaker Pelosi’s diplomatic foray into Syria weren’t so harmful to U.S. interests in the Middle East, it would have been laughable".
Cantor currently represents Virginia's 7th congressional district, which stretches from the western end of Richmond, through its suburbs, and northward to Page, Rappahannock and Culpeper counties. It also includes the towns of Mechanicsville and Laurel. The district is strongly Republican; it has been in Republican hands since 1971 (it was numbered as the 3rd District prior to 1993).
Cantor was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, filling the seat from which Tom Bliley was retiring. He defeated the Democratic nominee, by nearly 100,000 votes. Cantor had won the closely contested Republican primary over state Senator Stephen Martin by only 263 votes. During his first term, he was one of only two Jewish Republicans in the House of Representatives, the other being Benjamin A. Gilman of New York, who had been the only Jewish Republican since the departure of S. William Green in 1992. Gilman retired in 2002 and Cantor has been the only Jewish Republican since.
In 2002 Cantor was opposed by Democrat Ben L. Jones, former Congressman from Georgia, who had played "Cooter Davenport" in the TV Series The Dukes of Hazard.
2008 Vice Presidential speculation
In August 2008 news reports surfaced that Cantor was being considered as John McCain's Vice Presidential running mate, with McCain's representatives seeking documents from Cantor as part of its vetting process. However, in May 2009, a source who claimed affiliation with the McCain campaign denied those reports, calling them "a complete and total joke", and blaming "Cantor’s PR people" for being responsible for the false reports. Additionally, a book by Washington Post reporters Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson outlining the McCain campaign does not mention Cantor as one of the possible running mates considered by McCain. The idea for Cantor to be McCain's running mate was supported by conservative leader Richard Land.
Cantor won against Democratic nominee Anita Hartke.
Cantor won against Democratic challenger Rick Waugh, and Independent Green Party candidate Floyd C. Bayne. Although he won with 59% of the vote, Cantor received his lowest vote percentage since taking the hill in 2000.
Cantor met his wife, Diana Marcy Fine, on a blind date; they were married in 1989. They have three children: Evan, Jenna, and Michael. Prior to meeting her husband, Fine was a life-long liberal Democrat; contrary to her husband's positions, she is pro-choice and supports marriage equality.
Diana Cantor is a lawyer and certified public accountant. She founded, and from 1996 until 2008 was executive director of, the Virginia College Savings Plan (an agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia). She was also chairman of the board of the College Savings Plans Network. Mrs. Cantor is a Managing Director in a division of Emigrant Bank, a subsidiary of New York Private Bank & Trust Corp.
February 28, 2012