The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Eric Garcetti as U.S. ambassador to India, more than a year and a half after President Biden nominated the former Los Angeles mayor to the key diplomatic post.
The Senate voted 52-42 on Wednesday afternoon to approve Garcetti’s nomination, which had been stalled for months over allegations that he did not properly handle accusations of sexual harassment made against one of his former staffers.
Earlier Wednesday, there had been some uncertainty even among Democrats over whether Garcetti would have the support needed to clear a procedural vote. But though a few Democratic senators voted no, enough Republicans crossed party lines for Garcetti’s nomination to advance.
“The United States-India relationship is extremely important, and it’s a very good thing we now have an ambassador,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday.
The Republicans who supported Garcetti were Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Bill Cassidy (La.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), Bill Hagerty (Tenn.), Roger Marshall (Kan.) and Todd C. Young (Ind.). Democrats who opposed Garcetti were Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Mark Kelly (Ariz.). Six senators did not vote.
“Let’s just say I think we can find somebody that will do the job better,” Brown told the Associated Press on Wednesday morning, without elaborating on why.
Garcetti, a prominent Democrat who served as co-chair of Biden’s presidential campaign, was nominated for the position in July 2021. In March 2022, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) placed a hold on the nomination. Two months later, he released a report detailing multiple accusations of sexual harassment made against former Garcetti deputy chief of staff Rick Jacobs.
“Based on a preponderance of the evidence, we conclude that Mayor Garcetti likely knew or should have known that Rick Jacobs was sexually harassing multiple individuals and making racist comments towards others,” the report stated.
Garcetti has maintained he did not witness any inappropriate behavior. Jacobs called a 2020 sexual harassment lawsuit against him “a work of pure fiction” and has denied sexually harassing anyone. The allegations, however, reportedly triggered private reservations from even some Democrats — though the White House reiterated confidence in Garcetti.
Biden chose to resubmit Garcetti’s nomination to the new Senate in January, rather than select another nominee. Earlier this month, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced the nomination to the full chamber in a 13-8 vote, with two Republicans voting in support.
On Monday, Naomi Seligman, a former communications director for Garcetti, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Garcetti was “unfit to become an ambassador or really to hold public office anywhere in this country or this world” and accused the former mayor of enabling a “hard, disappointing and toxic” work environment.
“Unfortunately, the White House has put undue pressure on Democrats to vote for Eric Garcetti because Eric Garcetti has been a very, very loyal person to President Biden, and that’s unfortunate,” Seligman told Tapper. “These senators that purport to support #MeToo cannot just do it when it’s politically expedient. They have to do it when it matters, even if it’s your own political party.”
As mayor of Los Angeles from 2013 to 2022, Garcetti worked to raise the minimum wage, focused on expanding transit lines and steered the city through the coronavirus pandemic. But he was also criticized as failing to address the homelessness crisis.
The United States has been without an ambassador to India, the world’s largest democracy, since Biden took office. In the interim, various foreign officers have assumed duties at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi as chargé d’affaires.
In an appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in December 2021, Garcetti noted he had studied Hindi and Indian cultural and religious history in college. At the time — in the early 1990s — U.S.-India ties had languished, and the idea of a strategic partnership between the two countries “would have been deemed laughable,” he said.
That was no longer the case, he added. If confirmed, Garcetti has said, he would champion economic and defense partnerships with India.
“The bedrock of our partnership are the human ties that connect our nations, embodied by the 4 million-strong Indian American diaspora that strengthens our nation and the nearly 200,000 Indian students and tens of thousands of Indian professionals who contribute to our economy,” he told the committee. “In addition, respect for human rights and strong democratic institutions are key elements of our strategic partnership and values enshrined in our constitutions, and if confirmed, I will engage closely and regularly with the Indian government on these issues.”
Liz Goodwin, Paul Kane, Tyler Pager and Mariana Alfaro contributed to this report.