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Why Treasury Secretary Jack Lew Is Sad to See Eric Cantor Go

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R., Va.) primary loss touched every arm of government, even the U.S. Treasury.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Wednesday, answering a question from Macy's (M) CEO Terry Lundgren at the Economic Club of New York about what reforms both parties of Congress can pass, said immigration reform is realistic,but hinted that Cantor's defeat will make it tougher.

"I would have been a bit more optimistic about immigration reform if we were meeting earlier," Lew said with a smile on his face before Lundgren cut him off.

"Before this morning?" Lundgren asked, chuckling.

Lew was referring to Republican challenger David Brat's defeat of Cantor Tuesday night as the economics professor claimed 55.5% vs.  44.5% of the total votes cast.

Cantor last month showed his support for a measure that would offer legalization to young undocumented immigrants in the military -- a key shift by a Republican Party leader who many critics claimed was the most powerful legislator blocking bipartisan immigration reform.

Lew on Wednesday called immigration reform good economic policy, and cited Congressional Budget Office data that found such reform would increase the labor force, boost GDP by 3.4% over the next decade and cut the deficit by $158 billion across the 2014 to 2023 period.

Policy analysts argued that Cantor's loss imperils the hopes for immigration reform, while others said it likely squashes any chance.

"I think there is still broad bipartisan support for immigration reform," Lew said on Wednesday.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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