Nearly two years after President Joe Biden tapped him to become U.S. ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti faces his final confirmation hurdle on Wednesday. And it’s uncertain whether he’ll clear it.
The Senate is set for a critical vote on advancing the former Los Angeles mayor’s nomination that caps off months of limbo for Garcetti. While he was once seen on a glide path to New Delhi, his nomination stalled as questions swirled around his handling of harassment and assault allegations lodged against his former top aide in California.
Garcetti’s Senate backers remained confident this week that he would be confirmed, even as some Democrats privately predicted a tight vote on the Senate floor.
“There was finally a decision, when the president renominated him, that he was entitled to a vote,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “He passed out of committee with two Republicans supporting him, so that’s a positive sign for what might happen on the floor, but I haven’t whipped his nomination.”
The Foreign Relations Committee approved Garcetti’s nomination for a second time last week, with support from two Senate Republicans: Todd Young of Indiana and Bill Hagerty of Tennessee. While no Democrats have publicly come out against Garcetti, he is not expected to receive unanimous support from the caucus — and that uncertainty means Garcetti’s fate could rest with the Senate GOP, an unusual position for a Biden nominee.
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) reiterated this week that he had “significant concerns” about the nomination, while Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) declined to reveal how he’d vote on Garcetti, saying only that “I’ll announce when I’m ready to announce it.”
Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said Tuesday it’s “hard to say” how many Republicans would back Garcetti.
“I think he has … maybe a few problems on his side,” Thune added, referring to Garcetti’s own party. If Garcetti clears a procedural hurdle early Wednesday afternoon, which only requires a simple majority, he’s on track to be confirmed by the end of the day.
Biden first nominated Garcetti in July 2021, and the Foreign Relations Committee held a confirmation hearing in December 2021. But Garcetti’s nomination later ground to a halt after he faced allegations that he knew of — and did not act on — assault and harassment accusations against former top aide Rick Jacobs.
Garcetti has denied vehemently that he knew of the allegations against Jacobs before they became public, but the resulting furor nevertheless clouded his confirmation process. His parents even hired a lobbyist to help him get over the finish line.
Last year, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) published a report on the allegations that said “it is more likely than not that Mayor Garcetti either had personal knowledge of the sexual harassment or should have been aware of it.” The White House, however, has consistently stood by Garcetti, who was one of Biden’s early backers in the 2020 presidential race.
One Senate Democrat, granted anonymity to speak candidly about the nomination, expected that Garcetti would be confirmed but predicted that “it’ll be close.”
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a staunch Garcetti ally, defended him Tuesday, describing him as “a really qualified candidate that had dispersions made against him that were disproved by the facts.”
Jordain Carney contributed to this report.
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