Eric Garcetti's stalled nomination to ambassador's post sees slight progress
Eric Garcetti’s nomination to be ambassador to India made incremental progress this week as the former Los Angeles mayor impressed a Republican senator after a private meeting and won over an undecided Democrat.
Garcetti, whose nomination has languished for about a year and a half, drew praise from a key swing vote Tuesday, giving new life to a nomination that has seemed all but dead.
“I had an excellent meeting with Mayor Garcetti yesterday, and I was impressed with his knowledge of India,” Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a moderate Republican, told The Times in an interview.
A person familiar with Garcetti’s schedule confirmed he was in Washington this week but gave no further details.
President Biden first nominated Garcetti to the post in July 2021, but the ex-mayor has faced criticism over whether he knew — or should have known — that Rick Jacobs, a senior advisor, was allegedly sexually harassing colleagues and making racist comments.
Jacobs has denied the allegations, and Garcetti testified at his confirmation hearing in December 2021 that he “never witnessed, nor was it brought to my attention, the behavior that’s been alleged.”
Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa released a 23-page report last year that found it was “extremely unlikely” that Garcetti didn’t know about his aide’s alleged behavior.
“We discussed the allegations against his aide and his response to those allegations,” Collins said. “I still want to review Sen. Grassley’s report, but I don’t think that ‘should have known’ is a fair standard to use. So I haven’t made a final decision, but I was impressed.”
Collins’ comments come after Punchbowl News reported that Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii said she would vote for Garcetti on the floor. Hirono had previously told The Times she was “still contemplating” how she would vote.
“In this case, it’s not him who did it," Hirono said of Garcetti and Jacobs' alleged behavior. "He also testified that he knew nothing. So at this point, I am prepared to vote for the guy.”
The signs of progress, however, were met with a pair of setbacks.
Asked about Garcetti's nomination at a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said only, "We'll have to wait and see what happens in committee."
Schumer's statement came after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee postponed a meeting Tuesday to discuss the nomination of Garcetti and other Biden picks who have not been confirmed.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who sits on the committee, has placed a hold on Garcetti and a half-dozen other nominations.
"One of these nominees has ignored credible sexual assault accusations in his prior office," Rubio said in a statement late last week, alluding to allegations against Garcetti. "I will not turn a blind eye to these absurd nominations, which will hasten America’s decline."
When the panel last took up Garcetti's nomination in January 2022, it was reported favorably to the full Senate via voice vote with no objections. But it never reached the floor for a vote, partly due to concerns that it did not have enough Democratic support.
Since Garcetti's original nomination, he completed his final term as mayor.
The makeup of the Senate has also changed, with Senate Democrats expanding their 50-50 majority in the last Congress to a 51-seat majority.
But it remains unclear if Garcetti has the support of all Democrats.
Democrats are currently governing with a 50-49 majority as Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania continues to receive treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for depression. It's unclear when he'll return.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.