It’s been nearly a decade since a House majority leader stepped down, but it could happen this afternoon.
That's when House Republicans will huddle in an emergency meeting in the Capitol basement to determine the fate of their majority leader, Rep. Eric Cantor, who lost his GOP primary in Virginia on Tuesday.
Cantor hasn't signaled yet whether he will remain in the House's number-two leadership post, but the Washington Post reported today that he will announce that he is stepping down at the end of July.
But he’s familiar with how quickly fellow lawmakers will move to push aside a politically damaged leader.
Rep. Tom DeLay was the last majority leader to resign the post. The Texas Republican gave up the position in 2005 due to a clause in the House rules that prohibited anyone charged with a felony from serving in the Republican leadership.
At the time, DeLay had been indicted on conspiracy and money laundering charges related to state elections in Texas.
Cantor was then serving as chief deputy whip and when DeLay left his post, Cantor was elevated to helping DeLay's successor, Rep. Roy Blunt, now a U.S. senator from Missouri, to run the House floor.
Cantor told a Fredericksburg, Va., newspaper in an Oct. 2005 interview that he believed DeLay would be exonerated and would quickly return to the leadership.
"At the end of the day, this is temporary," Cantor said.
DeLay never returned to leadership and resigned his seat months later.
On Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner brushed past reporters, refusing to comment when they asked him about Cantor. His aides have revealed nothing.
Cantor has served as majority leader since January 2011 and was widely viewed as the successor to Boehner, who could retire as early as 2015, some say.
But talk is now swirling around Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, a conservative who has also served in the leadership and is currently chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, as the next majority leader.
Hensarling is under pressure to announce his intensions as early as this week if Cantor indeed steps aside.