Eric Garcetti narrowly passes key test vote in Senate to be U.S. ambassador to India

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted 52-42 on Wednesday to advance the nomination of Eric Garcetti to be U.S. ambassador to India, a key test vote that sets up final confirmation later in the day.

The long-delayed Garcetti nomination grew unusually contentious and sparked some last-minute drama. First nominated in July 2021, he had been held up in part over concerns about how he handled sexual misconduct claims against a former aide while he was mayor of Los Angeles. Garcetti has denied wrongdoing.

Several Democrats voted against advancing his nomination, but enough Republicans backed Garcetti to move it forward.

Barring any unexpected twists, a final vote expected Wednesday afternoon would give the U.S. its first permanent ambassador to India under President Joe Biden, more than two years into his term.

“The United States-India relationship is extremely important, and it’s a very good thing we now have an ambassador,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said after the procedural vote.

The gap has vexed many lawmakers in both parties, considering the emphasis the administration has put on India as a strategic and geopolitical partner, including as a bulwark against China.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, said India is the “largest democracy in the world,” a key “ally of the U.S.” and “part of the Quad,” the security alliance that also includes Australia, Japan and the U.S.

“This is a really important relationship, getting more important, and they deserve a confirmed ambassador. They do,” Kaine said. “If you don’t confirm an ambassador, the nation kind of receives the message ‘I guess this must not be that important.’ And we don’t want to send that message to any nation, but especially not India.”

Some Republicans questioned the qualifications of Garcetti, who served as a national co-chair to Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign.

“I just don’t think he’s qualified — especially with all the questions that are still circling around his previous tenure,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., referring to Garcetti’s time as mayor.

The vote led to an unusual ideological scramble. Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii revealed earlier Wednesday that they would vote no, along with Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona. But a group of Republicans voted yes and helped secure the necessary support, including Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Steve Daines of Montana, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Todd Young of Indiana.

Hirono said ahead of the vote that there was additional “information that was given to me in confidence, but very credible, which is leading to my no vote.” She wouldn’t say what that information was.

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., who previously supported Garcetti in committee, voted against the nomination Wednesday, attributing his switch to new information he had learned.

Garcetti’s nomination was approved by the Foreign Relations Committee last week, with the support of Democrats and two Republicans: Hagerty and Young.

“It’s a growing economy and it’s one of our most critical strategic relationships,” said Hagerty, himself a former U.S. ambassador to Japan. “And to not have an ambassador there, I think sends entirely the wrong message.”

Ryan Nobles, Ali Vitali and Alexandra Bacallao contributed.

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