The Republican House of Representatives has clashed with President Obama over its intentions to cut spending drastically. Nevertheless, the two sides continue to negotiate, hoping to reach a budget compromise addressing both spending reductions and tax cuts.
Struggling to find common ground, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has been vocal in holding to principle, even at the risk of the government unable to meet obligations by reaching its debt ceiling in August. Cantor made headlines Wednesday after a heated exchange with the president during negotiations. Let’s take a look at Cantor’s background and how he reached this position.
* Eric Cantor was born June 6, 1963, in Richmond, Va. Raised Jewish, he is the son of a real estate attorney involved in Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign, according to The Weekly Standard.
* Cantor attended prep school in Richmond before moving to nearby Washington, D.C., to attend George Washington University. He graduated in 1985.
* Staying in Virginia, Cantor enrolled in William and Mary School of Law and earned a Juris Doctorate in 1988. The young attorney additionally received a Masters in Real Estate from Columbia University in 1989.
* Finished with schooling, Cantor returned to Richmond to work for his father’s law firm. He would be involved in commercial law for the next decade.
* Cantor married fellow lawyer Diana Fine in 1989. The couple was soon blessed with three children: Evan, Jenna, and Michael.
* In November 1991, Cantor was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates to represent Richmond. He served five terms and became involved in the Republican leadership.
* In November 2000, Cantor was elected to Congress by a mere 263 votes to represent Virginia’s 7th District in the House of Representatives. Cantor assumed the seat of Republican Tom Billey, who retired after two decades. Cantor was a longtime friend and worked on several of his predecessor’s campaigns.
* In his first term, Cantor chaired the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism during the aftermath of September 11, 2001.
* Re-elected in 2002, new House Majority Whip Roy Blount surprisingly appointed the 39-year-old Chief Deputy Republican Whip. Receiving national attention for the first time, Cantor became a regular on television news shows and talk radio. He earned the respect of conservatives and was a top fundraiser for the Republicans during the Bush presidency.
* In Congress, Cantor authored the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, making it easier for families to save for medical expenses through Health Savings Accounts.
* After losses in the 2006 and 2008 elections, Blount vacated the position of Minority Whip, leaving Cantor next in line. The 45-year-old became Minority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2009.
* Cantor served as Minority Whip and was tapped to lead opposition to President Obama’s stimulus plan. Cantor’s alternative claimed to produce double the jobs at half the cost, but failed to pass. Obama’s stimulus became law, but soon grew unpopular.
* Cantor founded the Republican “Young Guns” program with Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and current Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). The program supports challengers seeking open congressional seats or those held by Democrats. Cantor co-authored the bestselling 2010 book “Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders.”
* In November 2010, Democrats lost control of Congress and Cantor was easily elected Majority Leader of the new Republican House. He continues to serve as the second highest-ranking Republican behind new Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and is a popular leader of the conservative movement.
Representative Eric Cantor, “About Eric,” from House of Representatives website.
Fred Barnes, “The Leader,” The Weekly Standard, October 1, 2007.
The New York Times, “Times Topics: Eric Cantor,” July 15, 2011.