By: Pramod Thomas
FORMER Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s nomination to become the US ambassador to India has cleared a major hurdle after a key senate committee voted to send his name to the senate floor for a full vote.
Garcetti’s nomination has been pending before the US Congress since July 2021, when President Joe Biden nominated him for the prestigious diplomatic post.
Two Republican Senators, Todd Young and Bill Hagerty, Wednesday (8) afternoon voted in favour of Garcetti, joining the Democratic lawmakers and passing the nomination through the senatorial committee.
His nomination was not brought to the senate floor for a vote during the last congress as the ruling Democratic Party did not have enough support to get the 52-year-old close aide of Biden through.
The senate foreign relations committee at its business meeting on Wednesday voted 13-8 in favour of the nomination of Garcetti. Now the nomination heads to the Senate floor for a full vote.
Garcetti wasn’t confirmed in Biden’s first two years in office amid concerns by some lawmakers that the then-mayor hadn’t adequately handled allegations against a former senior adviser of sexual assault and harassment. Biden renominated Garcetti to the same position in January this year.
Top Republican senator Chuck Grassley this week called for voting against him. Republican Senator Young defended his decision to vote in favour of Garcetti.
“It’s in our national security interest to have an ambassador immediately in place in India in order to balance China, work with the US throughout the Indo-Pacific…He has an imperfect resume, but the skills to succeed in this capacity,” Young said.
“We must ensure that any chief of the mission will, without question, protect our foreign service officers and embassy staff from all types of harassment,” said senator Jim Risch, ranking member of the senate foreign relations committee.
The White House continues to have full confidence in Garcetti. Last week it told reporters that Garcetti is qualified to serve as the US ambassador to India.
The State Department said it was in America’s national interest to have a confirmed Ambassador to India, an important country for the US.
“There is no other country around the world that would put itself in a position to have a vacancy open in a strategically important and valuable place like India for two plus years now,” state department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters after the vote.
“We certainly hope that the action that the Senate took today foretells additional action. It would be in our interest, it would be in the interest of India, and it would be in the interest of both of our people to have a confirmed ambassador in place. We hope that mayor and soon-to-be Ambassador Garcetti is able to take up that post before long,” Price said.
Applauding the vote of the committee, Price said the US needs a confirmed ambassador in India.
“Our team on the ground, including charges who have served in the place of an ambassador have done extraordinary work. But this is one of the most consequential bilateral relationships we have,” he said.
“When secretary of state Antony Blinken was in New Delhi last week, much of the breadth and the depth of that relationship was on full display. Our embassy staff, our mission India deserves to have a senate-confirmed ambassador who is, again with the consent of the senate, a representative of not only the secretary of state, but also the president of the US,” Price said.
Kenneth Juster, the last occupant of the ambassadorial residence of the US in New Delhi, stepped down in January 2021 after the change of government in America.