Eric Garcetti’s Passage to India Sails Through a Senate Vote

Two years after he was nominated to become Joe Biden’s Ambassador to New Delhi, L.A’s scandal-scarred former mayor is getting ready to pack his bags.

On July 9, 2021, President Joe Biden nominated then-Mayor Eric Garcetti to be the U.S. Ambassador to India. Today, after two years of bruising political battles arising from sexual harassment charges against one of Garcetti’s top aides,  the United States Senate voted to move forward with his appointment.

In a “motion to invoke closure” the Senate voted 52-42 to approve sending Garcetti to New Delhi. The final step in his confirmation process is expected to be formalized later today.

In a closely divided Senate, Garcetti’s passage to India was far from guaranteed. But the final tally today was far from the partisan, Democrats-up, Republicans-down vote that many observers had expected. Three Democratic senators—Mark Kelly of Arizona, Maisie Hirono of Hawaii, and Sherrod Brown of Ohio—voted against Garcetti’s nomination. But the support of seven Republicans, including Todd Young of Indiana, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina,  and Susan Collins of Maine helped push the embattled former mayor over the top.

India, the second most populous country on Earth, is a key U.S. ally and the long delay in filling the ambassador slot had provoked grumbling on multiple continents.

Today’s Senate vote came after a lengthy and contentious process. When Garcetti, a longtime Biden friend and political ally, was first nominated to the post, many expected him to sail through the approval process. Here in Los Angeles, politicians and City Hall observers began discussing who would replace him on an interim basis until a new mayor was elected.

In December of 2021 the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in favor of Garcetti’s nomination, but the motion never made it to the Senate floor. Instead, his nomination stalled after a lawsuit by a former member of the mayor’s security detail and allegations by Naomi Seligman, Garcetti’s former communications chief, that the mayor had failed to curb abusive behavior by Rick Jacobs, a former top mayoral aide.

While Garcetti firmly denied knowledge of any inappropriate behavior, the media and political fallout triggered by Seligman’s accusations seemed poised to derail his political career. Last year, Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley released a report that concluded that Garcetti either knew or should have known of his aide’s behavior. Democrats decried the report as political theater, pointing out that Grassley was one of the most ardent defenders of Bret Kavanaugh, whose nomination to the Supreme Court was almost sidelined by sexual harassment  allegations.

As congressional midterms approached in 2020, the Garcetti nomination appeared to lose steam, but was revived after the Democrats surprise Senate win.  Since then both Garcetti and Seligman have been personally lobbying senators of both parties about the matter.

Last week, the Foreign Relations Committee voted 13-8 in favor of proceeding with a full floor vote, with Young and Tennessee Republican Senator Bill Hagerty joining most of the committee’s Democrats to vote yes.

Today the support of seven GOP senators  allowed Garcetti and Biden to comfortably overcome the defection of the small handful of Democrats who voted against him.

The beleaguered  former mayor is expected to finally escape to India in the next few weeks, where he will take up residence at the American ambassadorial New Delhi residence, a luxurious mansion called the Roosevelt House.

Hours after Wednesday’s tally, Garcetti thanked the president for his unwavering support, while Seligman slammed Biden and Senate Democrats for “ignoring abusers.”

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