UPDATED, 11:58 AM: Eric Garcetti was confirmed by the Senate as the next U.S. ambassador to India, nearly two years after he was first nominated.
His efforts to win confirmation were stalled last year, amid allegations that he knew of sexual harassment complaints against a top aide but did not take action. Garcetti denied those allegations, but it created divisions within the Democratic caucus.
The Senate voted 52-42 for confirmation, with seven Republicans in support and three Democrats against.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) voted against the nomination. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) supported the nomination.
Earlier in the day, when it became clear that Garcetti had the votes for confirmation, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “The United States-India relationship is extremely important, and it is a very good thing we now have an ambassador.” The short statement perhaps reflected the contentious nature of the nomination, as very little was said about it as it reached the floor.
In a statement, Garcetti said, “I’m thrilled with today’s outcome, which was a decisive and bipartisan decision to fill a critical post that has been vacant for far too long. Now the hard work begins.”
He added, “I’m deeply grateful to President Biden and the White House for the confidence and support throughout this process, and for all Senators on both sides of the aisle — whether they voted for me or not — for their thoughtful consideration.”
Per NBC News, Hirono told reporters earlier in the day that she decided to vote against the nomination after she was provided “credible information given to me in confidence.” But Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who has been outspoken on sexual harassment issues, voted in favor.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) did not vote, as she is recovering from a case of the shingles.
PREVIOUSLY: Eric Garcetti’s goal to become the next U.S. ambassador to India cleared a major Senate hurdle on Wednesday, making it likely that he will be confirmed later in the afternoon.
His nomination was stalled for more than a year amid allegations that he ignored complaints of sexual harassment by a top aide.
The procedural vote was a rare cliffhanger for the Senate, which typically moves on nominations with the outcome all but certain. The vote was 52-42, with seven Republicans voting for the nomination and three Democrats voting against. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) voted against the nomination.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said very briefly afterward, “The United States-India relationship is extremely important, and it is a very good thing we now have an ambassador.”
Under oath, Garcetti denied that he ever witnessed or that it was “brought to my attention” the behavior of Rick Jacobs, who served as one of his top advisers inside and outside City Hall during the former mayor’s tenure. Jacobs also has denied the allegations.
Garcetti was first nominated to be ambassador to India in July, 2021, and it cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee six months later.
But a hold was placed on the nomination after a whistleblower, Garcetti’s former communications director Naomi Seligman, filed a complaint alleging, among other things, that Garcetti perjured himself in his confirmation hearing. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and his staff then conducted an investigation that concluded that Garcetti “likely knew or should have known” about the alleged harassment. Garcetti’s team and the White House challenged the report’s conclusions.
Biden renominated Garcetti earlier this year, and he cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a 13-8 vote last week.
Seligman, who recently joined Whistleblower Aid as VP of external affairs, appeared on CNN earlier this week to speak out against Garcetti’s nomination.
She called the City Hall working environment “toxic” and called Garcetti “a very powerful enabler.” She called Jacobs’ propensity to kiss people he met as an “intimidation tactic” and a “bullying tactic.”
Seligman said that she briefed 1/3 of the Senate in her efforts to stop the nomination. “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,” she said.
Sen. Chuck Grassley issued a statement in advance of the vote, citing a group photo in which Jacobs placed his hand over groin area of the person next to him. Garcetti is standing on the other side next to the person. Grassley also noted that his office identified “over 19 individuals who’ve either witnessed Jacobs’ behavior or were the victims of it.”
“This isn’t a political hit job,” Grassley said. “This is a bipartisan endeavor to stop an inadequate nominee.”
Garcetti’s team has cited a city commissioned report that concluded that Jacobs did not harass Matthew Garza, the LAPD officer who was on the mayor’s security detail and who filed a lawsuit against the city. Grassley, however, said that the report failed to interview a number of witnesses.
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