In a "one-minute" speech that lasted nearly 10 minutes — the standing ovation alone stretched to 60 seconds — Cantor delivered a doleful goodbye from his leadership post.
In his farewell as majority leader, Cantor touched on his background and his legislative accomplishments, noting one of his "proudest moments" was watching the president sign the "Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act ." He outlined the direction he thought the country needed to go, and he thanked some of his colleagues and staff.
Presiding over the chamber, Speaker John A. Boehner dabbed at tears with a handkerchief as Cantor recognized him for showing "us all your kind heart and soft spot from time to time." Cantor said that he and Boehner met at least once a day every day the House had been in session for the past five years — a testament to a relationship that saw its share of tumultuous moments but had been greatly repaired in recent years.
Already Cantor has slowly faded to the exit , stepping aside for new leaders after his surprise primary defeat in June to Republican challenger Dave Brat.
Cantor noted that House members didn't always see eye to eye — "even within our own parties" — but he said that was how it was supposed to be. "Our founders did not design a rubber stamp," he said.
According to Cantor, "the civil rights issue of our time" is providing poor children with a good education. "Too many children are condemned to a bad school because of the zip code they live in," he said.
The Virginia Republican also said it was "the privilege of a lifetime" to be a member of Congress, to hold James Madison's seat in Congress and to serve as majority leader.
While Cantor didn't recognize Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, he did pay tribute to "my good friend, the distinguished Democratic Whip, Steny Hoyer," who he said had "soberly and seriously helped ensure a strong foreign policy." (Hoyer made his own House floor tribute to Cantor following the majority leader's farewell speech.)
Cantor also took the opportunity to say he had never been "more worried" about the safety and peace of the United States than now.
"Instability and terror seems to be coming from every corner of the globe," he said. "The Middle East is in chaos. Iran is marching toward a nuclear weapon. Russia has reverted to a Cold War footing and invaded Ukraine."
Cantor paid recognition to many of his colleagues, including Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan and incoming Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who hugged Cantor during the chamber's standing ovation.
Cantor closed by recognizing Capitol Police, the sergeant-at-arms, and his family. And he thanked his colleagues for their service, friendship and warmth.
"And with that, I yield back," he said.