Eric Garcetti, President Joe Biden's close aide, will be the next United States Ambassador to India after the Senate confirmed his nomination, ending a protracted hiatus of over two years to fill the key diplomatic position.
The Senate voted 52-42 to confirm the former Los Angeles mayor's nomination on Wednesday. Garcetti, 52, lost the votes of three Democrats but convinced seven Republicans to cross the aisle, winning him the job.
His nomination had been pending before the US Congress since July 2021 when he was nominated for the prestigious diplomatic posting by Biden.
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," said Senator Mark Warner, Co-Chair of Senate India Caucus.
"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.
Garcetti's 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.
He was not confirmed by the Senate in President Biden's first two years in office amid concerns by some lawmakers that Garcetti had not adequately handled allegations of sexual assault and harassment against a former senior adviser.
President Biden renominated Garcetti to the same position in January this year.
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.
Some Democrats had publicly expressed concern about whether Garcetti knew about the sexual harassment that his former aide Rick Jacobs allegedly committed.
Garcetti supporters argued that geopolitical concerns were too important to leave India without an ambassador.
The US Embassy in India has been without an ambassador since January 2021, the longest stretch in the history of US-India relations that the post has sat vacant.
"This has become a grave national security concern of mine — not to have an ambassador in place. Our strategic partners wouldn't conceive of going two years into the establishment of a government or administration and failing to place their person in the role,” said Young, one of the two Republicans who supported Garcetti in committee.
“So it's not an ideal situation, but we have to balance these competing concerns, and I do think he's equipped to be very successful in that role,” Young was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times newspaper.
President Biden called the vote “important” at a Tuesday night fundraiser in Nevada, according to the New York Times, with the White House reaching out to some senators in recent days to ensure his nomination was voted through.
Multiple men accused Garcetti's former advisor Jacobs of sexual misconduct in 2020, behaviour the former Los Angeles mayor is accused of knowing about. Garcetti has denied any wrongdoing.
He told lawmakers that if he had known about the harassment, he would have done something about it.