President Barack Obama told Democratic donors that comprehensive immigration reform isn’t dead yet, following former Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s shocking loss.
“Some of you saw that there was an interesting election yesterday,” the president said at a Democratic fundraiser in Massachusetts on Wednesday. “And it’s interesting to listen to the pundits and the analysts, and some of the conventional wisdom talks about, oh, the politics of immigration reform seem impossible now. I fundamentally reject that. And I will tell the Speaker of the House that he needs to reject that.”
The president didn’t name Cantor specifically, according to a transcript of remarks obtained by NBC News. But it’s clear that the former Majority Leader’s primary loss was in question: Cantor lost to Dave Brat, after the political novice and economics professor painted Cantor as too far to the left, slamming him for supporting amnesty—a criticism Cantor firmly denied, to little avail.
“I mean, if you think that because of politics you want to maintain a status quo that’s broken; because of politics we’re going to forego the economic growth and the deficit reduction, and the border security, and the fairness and the opportunity that immigration reform represents – you don’t belong in Washington,” he said. “Because at a certain point, the issues are important enough to fight for. And my argument about yesterday’s election is not that there was too little politics, it’s that there was too little conviction about what’s right.”
Following his primary defeat—the first Majority Leader to ever be taken down by a primary challenger since the position was created in 1899—Cantor stepped down from his leadership role, throwing his support behind Rep. Kevin McCarthy.