WASHINGTON — As House majority leader, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia has enjoyed a bump in salary, a large political staff, an elegant office suite on the second floor of the Capitol and a security detail that drove him to and from his suburban Richmond home.
On Aug. 1, those perks will belong to someone else.
A consequence of Cantor’s loss in a primary Tuesday and his decision to resign as the No. 2 House Republican at the end of July is that he will spend his final five months in office with the privileges of a mere ordinary member of Congress.
Cantor, floored by an upset by a tea-party challenger, will have to cope with a reduced status made obvious by the office move, staff reduction and pay cut.
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He would have avoided this fate had he waited to relinquish his leadership post until he left Congress in January, as many retiring congressional leaders do.
For the first time in five years, he will either have to drive himself to work or assign the job to a member of his staff.
The U.S. Capitol Police provides only the congressional leadership with permanent security, a perk that Cantor voiced appreciation for when he announced his plans Wednesday to step down.
“I’ve gotten to know their often unheralded services that really are second to none, and it’s been an honor to be in their company,” Cantor said.
In March 2010, a stray bullet broke a windowpane in the building leased by Cantor’s re-election campaign, which led Cantor to ask for additional security.
Dick Armey, who served as House majority leader from 1995 to 2003, said the connection he had had with the six officers who drove him around the capital in a black SUV was his “closest relationship” from his years in Congress.
“You miss the guys because you get so close to them,” Armey said. “They were with you constantly.”
John Feehery, who served as former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert’s top spokesman, predicted Cantor would suddenly rediscover the privacy he gave up in return for the security entourage.
But Cantor’s final months will be a big departure for him.
“He’ll bring his car up and park in the garage just like everyone else,” Feehery said.
Cantor had more than 25 people on his majority-leader payroll last quarter, according to LegiStorm, an online database that tracks congressional staff members.
It is unclear how many of them will a find a place on Cantor’s regular staff, which has about 20 paid employees, according to LegiStorm.
Cantor could retain some of his majority-leader staff if he is assigned to a committee for his final five months.
He served on the House Ways and Means Committee until he was elected House majority leader in 2010, but House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel said no decisions had been made as to whether Cantor will return and be able to hire committee staff.
Cantor will also see a dip in his paycheck beginning in August: He will lose about $20,000 in yearly salary, from $193,400 down to the $174,000 paid to ordinary members of Congress.
In exchange, Cantor will find a leaner schedule, free from the constant travel and political obligations that are required of the majority leader.
“Frankly, he’s going to have a huge weight off his shoulders,” said Feehery, adding: “You get your life back.”