House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary loss Tuesday shocked K Street and has left the business community without a crucial, well-placed ally in the ongoing battle between conservative and pro-business factions within the GOP.
The Virginia Republican’s defeat by a tea-party-backed political novice could deal a setback to the already toned-down summer agenda of the business community. In particular, business lobbyists working in support of the Export-Import Bank’s re-authorization by the Sept. 30 expiration say Cantor's loss will only embolden the conservative Republicans who wish to block the bank.
“It is shocking,” said one business lobbyist speaking on the condition of anonymity. “As for policy, this completely kills any chance of immigration reform this year and surely imperils Ex-Im.” House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling has made killing the bank a top priority, and in a May speech at the Heritage Foundation, the Texas Republican said it should be a defining issue for the GOP. He said the bank represents corporate welfare, although backers in the business community say it returns money to Treasury and helps U.S. companies compete internationally.
Cantor, who many Republican lobbyists expected to one day become speaker, has a roster of former aides downtown.
They include his former deputy chief of staff Kyle Nevins, who is now with Capitol Counsel, and Mike Ference, a former top policy adviser, who is now with the firm Shockey Scofield Ference Solutions.
Another former senior policy adviser, Shimon Stein, is a principal at Blank Rome, and Valerie Nelson, a former director of members services, joined the firm Dentons last year.
In addition to Cantor’s former aides, Republican lobbyists, especially the collection of those who are Jewish, viewed Cantor as an ally. And they are distraught to see him go.
“Leader Cantor’s defeat, besides being a loss for our country, is a significant loss to the conservative Jewish world,” said Ari Storch, co-chairman of Artemis Strategies. “Eric Cantor has been ‘the’ true leader uniting Jewish values with conservative principles. He has been the tip of the spear in exposing the Jewish community to synergies of conservative ideology and Jewish theology and has greatly expanded the Republican brand within the Jewish community as well as Jewish values within the conservative movement. I hope that Eric will continue to engage as the key leader he has always been, with even greater things still to come for him and our country.”
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