Big business may try to downplay Eric Cantor's defeat

 House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (L) stands with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) (R) during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol June 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor spoke to the media after attending a closed meeting with House Republicans. In an unexpected upset, Cantor was later defeated by Tea Party challenger David Brat in Virginia's congressional primary.

Dave Bratt, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, has defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the primary in Virginia’s seventh congressional district.

A defining issue in that campaign was immigration. Bratt accused Cantor of being “soft” on the issue, noting Cantor had voiced support for immigration reform.

Members of the business community, which have backed reform, reacted to the election results in the same way many Americans did. Bill Miller, with the Business Roundtable, a group that represents CEOs in Washington, said the outcome was “pretty shocking.”

“Nobody really saw this coming,” he added.

Miller cautions against Monday-morning quarterbacking, saying it is too early to know what Cantor’s primary defeat will mean for immigration reform. His group’s goal, he says, remains the same: “It’s important to fix this system.”

Miller argues the U.S. needs more visas for high-tech workers a better guest worker program, among other things.

Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, says he expects big business will try to downplay what happened yesterday; instead, they will point to primary victories by pro-reform Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, and Rep. Renee Elmers from North Carolina.

“They are still pushing very hard for action, but I think they have to be discouraged by this,” Alden says.

There are several new pro-reform groups in Washington backed by business leaders, including FWD.us, which was started by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Ali Noorani, who leads the National Immigration Forum, is optimistic the House will tackle immigration legislation this summer.

“Until John Boehner burns down the windmill of immigration reform, we’re still in play,” he says.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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