In a surprising turn, former Los Angeles Democrat Mayor Eric Garcetti has been confirmed as the next U.S. ambassador to India after a nearly two-year process. The contentious confirmation was marked by the need for several “yes” votes from Senate Republicans, raising questions about their rationale behind voting in favor of a nominee facing concerns over his past actions and qualifications.
The long-delayed Garcetti nomination sparked last-minute drama, with several Democrats voting against advancing his nomination. Finally, however, enough Republicans backed Garcetti to give the U.S. its first permanent ambassador to India under Joe Biden, more than two years into his term.
Someone explain to me why any Republican senator would ever vote to confirm Eric Garcetti? https://t.co/RcujeylsQQ
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) March 14, 2023
The unusual ideological scramble saw Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) oppose the nomination, while a group of Republicans, including Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Steve Daines (R-MT), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Todd Young (R-IN), voted in favor.
Garcetti’s nomination had been held up due to concerns over how he handled sexual misconduct claims against a former aide while he was mayor. Garcetti has denied any wrongdoing. Sen. Hirono announced she would vote against Garcetti, citing “very credible” information she received in confidence. Still, she did not detail what the information was.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) highlighted the importance of the U.S.-India relationship. At the same time, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) emphasized India’s status as the largest democracy in the world, a key U.S. ally, and a member of the Quad security alliance. Kaine argued that not confirming an ambassador sends a message of a lack of importance to the relationship, which is undesirable, especially in India.
Despite emphasizing the importance of a U.S. ambassador to India, some Republicans questioned Garcetti’s qualifications, as he was a national co-chair to Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign. For example, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) expressed doubts about Garcetti’s qualifications, especially considering the questions still circling his previous tenure as mayor.
The GOP senators who supported Garcetti argued that the post was too important to remain vacant for so long. Sen. Young stated that it is a national security imperative to immediately have an ambassador in place in India, as the country cannot afford to wait any longer. Sen. Hagerty, a former U.S. ambassador to Japan, also noted the importance of India’s growing economy and its critical strategic relationship with the U.S.
However, the support of GOP senators for Garcetti’s nomination raises questions about their motivations. Why would they vote in favor of a nominee facing concerns about his past actions and qualifications, especially when some of their Democratic counterparts opposed the nomination? Is the urgency of filling the ambassadorial post in India the primary reason, or are there other factors at play?
With the confirmation process complete, one can only hope that Garcetti will rise above the controversy and effectively serve as the U.S. ambassador to India, strengthening the strategic and geopolitical partnership between the two nations.