WASHINGTON, June 11 (Xinhua) -- U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced Wednesday that he would resign his leadership post by July 31, after he was defeated Tuesday in a primary election to newbie David Brat, a Tea-Party backed rival, in the state of Virginia.
It will clear the way for a Republican shake up ahead of the midterm elections this fall, when control of Congress is at stake, observers say.
House Republicans will also elect a new majority leader on June 19.
Cantor informed his fellow Republicans of his intentions at an emotional closed-door meeting before making his public announcement at a news conference Wednesday.
Lawmakers in both parties said Cantor's defeat and the prospect of a change within the Republican high command probably signal the demise of immigration legislation along the lines of the goal U.S. President Barack Obama is seeking and will also have a negative impact on the balance of his second-term agenda.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, nevertheless, disputed the notion that Cantor's surprise loss crushed the prospects of House Republican leaders putting an immigration bill on the floor this year.
Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the party whip and third-ranking leader, informed fellow Republicans he intended to run to succeed Cantor.
"What divides Republicans pales in comparison to what divides us as conservatives from the left and their Democratic allies," said Cantor, who seems ready to retire from politics. He promised he would serve out his term and be active this fall for Republican candidates in the midterm election.
Accused by Tea Party critics of being too accommodating on immigration and other issues, and criticized by Democrats for being inflexible, Cantor insisted he had struck the right balance. "I think that this town should be about trying to strike common ground."
The resignation would mark a swift end to a quick rise to power for Cantor, 51, who was elected to Congress in 2000, was appointed to the leadership two years later, and then rose steadily to become the second-most powerful Republican in the House. In that post, he was the most powerful Jewish Republican in Congress, and occasionally was seen as a potential rival to Speaker John Boehner but more often as a likely successor.
The impact of Cantor's surprise loss on the fate of immigration legislation in the current Congress seemed clear. Conservatives will now be emboldened in their opposition to legislation to create a path to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally, while party leaders who are sympathetic to such legislation will likely be less willing to try.