Senate confirms Garcetti to post

Former L.A. mayor gets help from the GOP to become next ambassador to India.

By Linh Tat | SCNG

Former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was finally confirmed by a split vote in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday as the next ambassador to India, 20 months after being nominated by President Joe Biden.

Garcetti, who was confirmed in a 52-42 roll call 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 leveled against a former top aide to the then-mayor.


Victory for Garcetti, 52, was far from a sure thing. With several Democratic defections arising Wednesday morning, Garcetti’s fate rested 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 came amid a rekindled campaign against the former mayor, who has repeatedly denied any knowledge of sexual harassment accusations against 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 Washington raised concerns that leaving the post vacant would send a message that the U.S. did not view relations with India to be important.

Ahead of Wednesday’s vote, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine indicated that she would support Garcetti’s nomination.

“I met with him personally,” Collins said. “He clearly has an enormous amount of expertise about India.”

At issue over the past 20 months was whether Garcetti was aware of Jacobs’ alleged behavior.

A 2020 lawsuit filed by Los Angeles Police Department Officer Matthew Garza claims 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.”

The White House called the report a partisan smear.

Last spring, as his nomination languished, Garcetti’s parents hired a lobbyist to push for his confirmation. Months went by, and in January Biden renominated Garcetti, setting the path for his approval.

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.”

Wednesday’s vote was clearly about more than a single envoy’s role. It proved to be a litmus test of Democratic loyalty to Biden and measured assessments of Garcetti’s judgment and trustworthiness stemming from the City Hall allegations that shadowed him in the #MeTooera.

“I think we can find somebody that will do the job better,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, one of the Democrats who signaled opposition to Garcetti as the final vote neared.

Garcetti also failed to win over Democrat Mark Kelly of Arizona, who said he had “serious concerns.” Mazie Hirono of Hawaii joined that pair in voting against Garcetti.

Republican Collins, however, said: “India’s been two years without an ambassador, and that is far too long. And I am going to support (Garcetti).”

In all, Collins joined six other Republicans who voted to propel Garcetti’s nomination and, in the end, confirm him: Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Steve Daines of Montana, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Roger Marshall of Kansas and Todd Young of Indiana.

Garcetti’s confirmation comes on the heels of an embattled conclusion to his nine-year run as mayor.

The son of former Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti and a Rhodes Scholar, Garcetti took office in 2013 vowing to fix potholes and sidewalks and clear the air at notoriously corruption-plagued L.A. City Hall. Garcetti built up a log of early successes and even weighed a 2020 White House run.

But he left the office in turmoil, fraught with rising crime rates, a homeless crisis deemed out of control, a city economy jolted by the COVID-19 pandemic and enduring whispers over what he knew and when he knew it amid the sexual harassment scandal.

The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.

0 0


+ Click to show meta information.

Please Login to add comments.
Please login to reply or flag this note.
Email to friends using email, gmail, yahoo mail, hotmail, outlook, live mail.