Down and Out: Cantor to resign as House Majority Leader

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.)
Eric Cantor, the second-ranking Republican in the House, will step down from his post as majority leader July 31 after losing his primary bid Tuesday night.

The majority leader is stepping down in the aftermath of his defeat in a primary election to a tea-party backed rival in Virginia. That clears the way for a Republican shake-up just before the midterm elections this fall, when control of Congress is at stake.
Cantor has served as second-in-command to House Speaker John Boehner since 2010. He was defeated in the primary by David Brat, a little-known economics professor who ran a shoestring campaign without the support of prominent national Tea Party groups.

The decision to step down, first reported by the Washington Post, is sure to send shockwaves through Capitol Hill as members of the conservative and establishment wings of the Republican Party jockey to fill the influential post.

Cantor had previously been discussed as a potential successor to Boehner if the current speaker stepped down. He says he'll serve out the remainder of his term in Congress. And he hopes to continue to be a champion for conservative causes across the nation after he leaves office.

Other top Republicans are already floating names to replace Cantor in the high-ranking post.

Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, is actively discussing his interest in the majority leader job, a GOP aide confirmed to NBC News.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, former GOP Conference Chairman and current Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is another favorite of conservatives for the job. In a statement Monday, Hensarling acknowledged that he's mulling a run.

"I am humbled by the many people who have approached me about serving our Republican Conference in a different capacity in the future. There are many ways to advance the causes of freedom and free enterprise, and I am prayerfully considering the best way I can serve in those efforts,” he said.

Cantor says he will support Kevin McCarthy of California to replace him as majority leader.

NBC's Carrie Dann and the Associated Press contributed to this story.