Eric Cantor’s primary challenger David Brat ripped the Majority Leader as “the number one Republican supporter of amnesty” in a dramatic press conference steps away from a rival event by a liberal Democrat intended to paint Cantor as the face of GOP intransigence on immigration.
The day after Cantor portrayed himself as an anti-amnesty warrior in campaign literature, Brat accused Cantor of coordinating with Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), the Democrat holding the rival press conference, to provide him political cover in his moment of greatest need.
Cantor, Brat noted, had previously visited sites with Gutierrez in a pro-immigration reform tour. “You would have to be pretty gullible not to see a link there,” Brat said.
The long-shot challenge from Brat has improbably gained national attention after Cantor was booed and heckled by a crowd of Tea Party activists at a recent Republican party event. Cantor has had to go on air with attack ads fact-checkers have criticized as misleading and adopt the language of anti-amnesty hawks in his mailers, clashing with his “making life work” rebranding effort.
Typically, party leaders are able to win reelection easily, especially in primaries, so the concerted efforts by Cantor are seen as deeply embarrassing for the Virginia Republican considered Speaker John Boehner’s heir apparent.
“This is the act of a desperate campaign,” Brat said about the mailer.
In attacking Cantor for his support of amnesty, Brat noted that Cantor has supported legislation to grant amnesty to illegal aliens brought to the U.S. as children, a class of individuals colloquially called “DREAMers” in reference to the “DREAM Act,” which would grant them amnesty.
In a 2013 speech that was the launch of one of Cantor’s rebranding efforts, he explained his rationale for supporting the legislation, saying, “One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents.”
Cantor also backed a more targeted effort granting amnesty to illegal aliens who enlist in the military, called the “ENLIST Act.” Cantor was a key force behind the push to insert the proposal into a must-pass defense bill but changed course at the last minute, blocking it from even coming to a vote on the House floor.
Brat went further, saying, “There is no Republican in the country who is more liberal on immigration than Eric Cantor.”
However, over the course of his career, Cantor has received high marks from NumbersUSA, an anti-amnesty activist group, for his voting record. He’s also repeatedly said he opposes the Senate “Gang of Eight” bill.
In the House, Republican opponents of amnesty generally consider Cantor someone who strongly wants the GOP to pursue a comprehensive bill, but not one of its most public advocates, like Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart or even Boehner.
Brat also challenged Cantor to sign a new pledge from an anti-amnesty group. If Cantor is such an anti-amnesty stalwart, Brat asked, “Why hasn’t Cantor signed the no amnesty pledge circulated by FAIR? Has Eric Cantor ever met with ICE officers?”
“I am calling on Eric Cantor to make public all corporate executives and lobbyists he has met with discuss cheap labor,” he added.