The Senate confirmed former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as U.S. ambassador to India on Wednesday, ending a nearly two-year fight over his nomination.
Senators voted 52-42 to confirm Garcetti to the post. He lost the votes of three Democrats but convinced seven Republicans to cross the aisle, winning him the job.
The outcome was anything but guaranteed. Democratic defections had mounted Wednesday morning, with several senators citing lingering questions about whether Garcetti knew or should have known about a former top aide’s alleged sexual harassment of colleagues.
Six senators were absent from Capitol Hill on Wednesday, further complicating the vote counting.
But Garcetti’s nomination was rescued by the Republican senators who broke ranks to support him, including Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, Steve Daines of Montana, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee and Todd Young of Indiana.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who said as recently as last week that she was going to give Garcetti “the benefit of the doubt” that he didn’t know about alleged misconduct by a top aide, said Wednesday morning that she would oppose the nomination based on “credible” new information she received. She would not disclose what she had learned.
Along with Hirono, Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Mark Kelly of Arizona voted against the nomination.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, who is responsible for counting votes for Democrats, had refused to predict Tuesday whether the vote would be successful. Democrats have not “whipped” the vote — or asked each Democratic senator how they intend to vote — “so I don’t assume any outcome until we” vote, he said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who was recently diagnosed with shingles in San Francisco, was among the senators who missed the vote Wednesday.
The White House and Garcetti had strongly pushed for a vote to be held, regardless of the outcome.
That put a vise around some Democrats who had publicly expressed concern about whether Garcetti knew about the sexual harassment that his former aide, Rick Jacobs, allegedly committed.
While two Republicans already supported Garcetti in committee, it was uncertain until the day of the vote whether other Republicans would cross the aisle to save a Biden nominee, particularly if Democrats balked.
Garcetti supporters argued that geopolitical concerns were too important to leave India without an ambassador. The U.S. Embassy in India has been without an ambassador since January 2021, the longest stretch in the history of U.S.-India relations that the post has sat vacant.
“This has become a grave national security concern of mine — not to have an ambassador in place. Our strategic partners wouldn’t conceive of going two years into the establishment of a government or administration and failing to place their person in the role,” said Young, one of the two Republicans who supported Garcetti in committee. “So it’s not an ideal situation, but we have to balance these competing concerns, and I do think he’s equipped to be very successful in that role.”
President Biden nominated Garcetti in July 2021. But the nomination withered amid the sexual harassment concerns. Garcetti told lawmakers that if he had known about the harassment, he would have done something about it.
With Republicans promising to slow-walk the nomination, Senate Democrats last year were unwilling to waste valuable floor time to move it and instead wanted to focus on legislation that could pass the Democratic-controlled House.
When Republicans took control of the House this year, Senate Democrats pushed most legislation to the back burner and prioritized moving stalled nominees, including Garcetti.