Republican Eric Cantor poised for majority leader role

Eric Cantor

Eric Cantor

A Republican politician from Virginia will become the most senior Jewish politician in US history later today.

Eric Cantor will be officially sworn in as the House majority leader when the Republican Party takes control of the House of Representatives, following its success at the mid-term elections in November.

The Republicans have already vowed to challenge much of President Obama’s agenda, including a push for a repeal of his healthcare reform with a vote on January 12.

However the Democrats still control 53 of the 100 seats in the Senate, meaning the legislation is unlikely to be repealed.

Mr Cantor, who has been a congressman since 2000, was in Washington last night for a celebratory event organised by the Republican Jewish Coalition.

He told the crowd that his success should be a reminder that in US politics "it doesn't matter where you come from".

As the only Jewish Republican in Congress, Mr Cantor joked: "We're still hoping for some company."

Last year a gunman shot at Mr Cantor’s campaign office. He said after the ordeal that he believed this and other threats were because he was Jewish.

Known for his pro-Israel views, Mr Cantor said after President Obama’s election in 2008 that that he would be “very outspoken” if anything were done to damage ties between the US and Israel.

Mr Cantor achievement is matched by few other Jewish politicians, although had Al Gore won the presidency in 2000 Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman would have become the country’s first Jewish vice president.

Pundits have tipped another Jewish politician, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, to challenge President Obama with a run in 2012.

Last updated: 9:56am, January 5 2011