Former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was finally confirmed by a split vote in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, March 15, to serve as the United States ambassador to India, 20 months after being nominated by President Joe Biden.
Garcetti, who was confirmed in a 52-42 vote, was nominated in July 2021, but his nomination languished for months in the Senate as some speculated that he knew, or should have known, about allegations of assault and sexual harassment committed by a former top aide to Garcetti.
Garcetti’s victory was far from a sure thing. With several Democratic defections arising on Wednesday morning, Garcetti’s fate rested with allying with Republicans in the deeply divided Senate. He secured seven GOP votes to advance the nomination to a final vote.
The president “believes that we have a crucial and consequential partnership with India and that Mayor Garcetti will make a strong and effective ambassador,” White House spokesperson Olivia Dalton said after the vote.
A move by Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer to back Garcetti to become the ambassador to India came amid a rekindled campaign against Garcetti, who has repeatedly denied any knowledge of sexual harassment accusations against his former longtime confidante, Rick Jacobs.
The vacancy in the ambassadorship had created a significant diplomatic gap for the Biden administration at a time of rising global tensions, including China’s increasingly assertive presence in the Pacific region and Russia’s war with Ukraine.
Some who work in D.C. raised concerns that leaving the post vacant would send a message that the U.S. did not view relations with India to be important.
To be confirmed on Wednesday, Democrat Garcetti needed the support of some Republicans in the Senate.
Ahead of Wednesday’s vote, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine indicated that she would support Garcetti’s nomination.
“I met with him personally. He clearly has an enormous amount of expertise about India,” Collins said. “India’s been two years without an ambassador, and that is far too long. And I am going to support him.”
At issue over the past 20 months was whether Garcetti was aware of the alleged behavior of his longtime advisor, Jacobs.
A 2020 lawsuit filed by Los Angeles Police Department Officer Matthew Garza claims that Jacobs repeatedly harassed one of Garcetti’s police bodyguards. The suit alleges Garcetti witnessed the misconduct but turned a blind eye to it.
Garcetti’s former communications director, Naomi Seligman, also claimed she was forcibly kissed by Jacobs and that Garcetti knew about Jacobs’ alleged pattern of harassment.
Garcetti has denied allegations that he was aware of and dismissed Jacobs’ actions.
An investigation requested by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, last year concluded that it was “more probable than not” that Jacobs “sexually harassed multiple individuals and made racist comments towards others.” It also found it “extremely unlikely” that Garcetti was unaware of the behavior, saying that “by all accounts, Mayor Garcetti is very involved in the day-to-day operation of his office.”
Last spring, as his nomination languished, Garcetti’s parents actually hired a lobbyist to push for his confirmation. Months went by, and in January Biden re-nominated Garcetti, setting the path for his approval as the ambassador to India.
Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry Commerce Association, said immediately after Wednesday’s vote that he believes Garcetti is “the right person for the job.”
“He put a lot of effort into international affairs. That was one of the bright spots of his administration,” Waldman said, noting that during Garcetti’s tenure as mayor, his administration sought to bring foreign investors to L.A.
After Garcetti was nominated to the India post, Waldman said he spoke with Garcetti, who urged VICA members to take another trip to India once he was there.“I think it’s a good spot for him,” Waldman said about Garcetti’s newest assignment.
“He’s knowledgeable. He has the ability to connect foreign businesses with domestic businesses. A lot of people do business with India from L.A. Having an ambassador make that a priority is positive for everybody.”
With reporting from The Associated Press and City News Service.