Former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has been confirmed by the US Senate to be the next US envoy to India after he won with a margin of 52-42.
The appointment of Garcetti, a close aide of Biden, has been stuck for over a year over his name coming up in a sexual abuse scandal. He was first nominated in July 2021.
The United States had not had a full-time envoy in India since early 2021 when the previous US envoy Kenneth I Juster completed his tenure. The current US head of mission in India is A Elizabeth Jones, who is serving as the Chargé d’Affaires in the absence of a full-time envoy.
Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 13-8 in favour of his nomination.
“The relationship between India and the US is a strong one, and one of great strategic, economic, and cultural importance. Founded on shared values, supported by growing economic and trade ties, and strengthened by the Indian diaspora here in the US, this partnership continues to hold significant promise for the future," Senator Mark Warner, Co-Chair of Senate India Caucus, said.
"As co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, I am glad that there will finally be a Senate-confirmed ambassador in New Delhi," Warner said.
Following the US mid-term elections that have strengthened Biden's Democratic Party in the US Congress, Biden renominated Garcetti in January early this year. The White House exuded confidence that the former Mayor of Los Angeles would be confirmed by the Senate this time.
Who is Eric Garcetti, Biden's India envoy nominee?
Eric Garcetti is two-term Mayor of Los Angeles. He left office last month which he had held since 2013.
Garcetti is believed to be a close ally of Biden. At the beginning of Biden's presidency, he was considered a contender for a Cabinet post.
Initially, Garcetti also considered a run for presidential candidature in 2020 but later joined Biden’s inner circle.
Garcetti has travelled several times to India. In college, he spent a year studying Hindi and Urdu.
A Rhodes Scholar, Garcetti studied at Queen's College, Oxford and the London School of Economics and Political Science. He was selected as an inaugural Asia 21 Fellow of the Asia Society and taught at Occidental College's Department of Diplomacy and World Affairs as well as at the University of Southern California's School of International Relations.
Why was Eric Garcetti's appointment stalled?
Eric Garcetti's appointment to the post of US Ambassador to India was stalled over his name in a sexual abuse scandal.
It was alleged that Garcetti was aware of the sexual misconduct of a senior aide but did not act on the allegations.
As ambassadors need to be confirmed by the US Congress, opposition by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley over the sex scandal stalled the appointment.
It was alleged that Garcetti was aware of sexual abuse accusations against his senior staffer Rick Jacobs and he did not act on those accusations.
A police officer who was one of Garcetti’s bodyguards alleged that Jacobs made crude sexual comments and touched him inappropriately over many years. The officer alleged that Jacobs would extend his hand for a handshake but then pull him into a “long, tight hug” while simultaneously saying, “I love me my strong LAPD officers” or some other “inappropriate comment”, according to a lawsuit. It added that Jacobs once motioned for him to come over to him and “sit on his lap” at a bar.
This began around 2014 and continued until October 2019, according to the lawsuit filed by the officer.
The lawsuit further said, “Garcetti was present on approximately half of the occasions when Jacobs behaved in this way, and witnessed Jacobs’ conduct, but he took no action to correct Jacobs’ obviously harassing behaviour.”
Though the hold on his nomination had been lifted, Garcetti could not be confirmed by the last Congress. The White House is now confident that his nomination will now be cleared.
What White House said earlier?
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, "We will continue to seek the confirmation of Mayor Garcetti, who has - who was voted out of committee unanimously and with strong bipartisan support to serve as ambassador to India.
"And that’s important, as we’re talking about bipartisanship, as we’re talking (about) how we’re going to move forward. And this is what you saw with his particular nomination.So, we see this as he is well qualified — Mayor Garcetti — to serve in this vital role. And we’re hopeful that the full Senate will confirm him promptly."
(With PTI inputs)