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Senate finally confirms former LA Mayor Eric Garcetti as ambassador to India

The nomination had been held up for nearly two years, amid accusations that Garcetti had ignored sexual harassment by a top political aide.

(CN) — Nearly two years after he was nominated, former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was finally confirmed by the U.S. Senate as ambassador to India on Wednesday, in a narrow 52-42 vote that saw both Democrats and Republicans cross party lines.

Six Republicans voted to confirm Garcetti, including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine and Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, himself a former ambassador to Japan. Three Democrats voted no: Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Mark Kelly of Arizona.

Senator Hironi, who had previously said she would vote for the nomination, said in a statement on Wednesday morning, "Earlier this week I received additional information that, when taken in its totality with the information already available, has led me to be a ‘no’ on Mr. Garcetti’s nomination.” She told NBC reporter Frank Thorp that the information was given to her "in confidence" but was "very credible."

And Senator Brown told Associated Press reporter Seung Min Kim, "Let's just say I think we can find somebody that will do the job better.”

Longtime Senator Lindsay Graham told Thorp before the vote, “We need an ambassador to India," adding: "I understand the accusations. A lot of friends of mine vouch for him.”

Much of the opposition to Garcetti's nomination came from allegations of sexual harassment made against a former political aide Rick Jacobs. Mathew Garza, an LAPD officer who was on Garcetti's security detail, says Jacobs, who is gay, made crude sexual jokes and repeatedly touched him inappropriately — massaging his shoulders and hugging him. Garza has sued the city and a trial is scheduled for later this year.

His accusations were echoed by Garcetti's former spokesperson Naomi Seligman, who says Jacobs kissed her on the lips without her consent, among other harassing and bullying behavior. Both Garza and Seligman say Garcetti and his top staff knew about Jacobs' misconduct and ignored it, a charge Garcetti has denied. A number of former City Hall staffers have cast doubt on Seligman's story.

When Garcetti appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in December 2021, he was asked about accusations he'd ignored Jacobs' sexual harassment.

"I want to say unequivocally that I never witnessed, nor was it brought to my attention the behavior that's been alleged," Garcetti said. "And I also want to assure you, if it had been, I would have immediately taken action to stop that."

Before that hearing, Seligman's lawyer sent a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reading in part, "It is deeply disturbing that Mayor Garcetti spent years both ignoring and enabling Mr. Jacobs's appalling unlawful behavior, despite a City Hall policy of 'zero tolerance' for sexual misconduct, and is now engaged, along with senior staff members, in an attempt to cover up these failings."

Garcetti's 9 1/2-year stint as mayor of the second largest city in the country was something of a mixed bag. He helped convince voters to pass ballot measures expanding public transit and raising the minimum wage, and secured the 2024 Summer Olympic Games for LA. But his tenure was marred by a homelessness crisis that seemed to grow worse every year, especially during the first year of the Covid pandemic.

Many thought Garcetti would run for president in 2019, which would have meant leaving office before his second term was over. When he decided not to run, he said, "It may be out of vogue today, but I kind of believe that whenever possible, you should finish the job that you set out to do.” Though some observers thought he would be nominated for a cabinet position — he was, after all, an early supporter of Biden — he was instead offered the far less impressive post in New Delhi, which he accepted, despite the fact that it would have meant leaving office early. Or rather, that's what it would have meant if his nomination wasn't held up for almost two years.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made a short statement on the floor of the Senate, after his colleagues voted to end debate on the nomination. "The U.S.-India relationship is extremely important," the Democrat from New York said, "and it’s a good thing we have an ambassador."

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