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Key Vote In US Senate Today On Biden’s Choice For India Ambassador

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Eric Garcetti was renominated by the Biden administration this year

New Delhi:

The foreign relations committee of the US Senate will today vote on whether Eric Garcetti, President Joe Biden’s choice for Ambassador to India, can take over the post.

The appointment of Garcetti, former Los Angeles Mayor, to the key envoy post has been held up due to allegations of sexual misconduct against some staff members in the Mayor’s office.

Owing to the impasse, the US has not had an India Ambassador for two years now. With the key post vacant, the Biden administration last year appointed Elizabeth Jones as the Charge d’Affaires ad interim at its Embassy in Delhi.

Mr Garcetti, 52, was nominated by President Biden for the Ambassador to India post in July 2021. But his nomination was not brought to the Senate for a vote as the ruling Democrats did not have enough support to get him through. Republicans and some members of Garcetti’s party were opposed to his nomination because of allegations of sexual misconduct against some staff members in the Los Angeles Mayor’s office during his term.

The hold on his nomination was lifted last year, but he could not be confirmed by the last Congress.

Biden renominated Garcetti this January. A vote of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was scheduled, but it was postponed till today after Republican Senator Marco Rubio placed a hold. “One of these nominees has ignored credible sexual assault accusations in his prior office. I will not turn a blind eye to these absurd nominations, which will hasten America’s decline,” Rubio told news agency PTI.

In the run-up to today’s vote, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who played a key role in blocking Garcetti’s nomination last time, urged members of the Senate committee to vote against him. He has said that an investigation by him threw up clear evidence that Garcetti “either had direct knowledge or chose willful ignorance as a defence” in cases of alleged sexual misconduct by staff at the mayor’s office.   

“President Joe Biden’s nomination Eric Garcetti to be ambassador to India is before foreign relations committee this week. I conducted a thorough investigation of the allegations against Garcetti irrespective of partisan politics,” Grassley said in a Twitter thread. “The evidence is clear that Jacobs (Garcetti’s deputy chief of staff) engaged in blatant sexual misconduct and racist behaviour for years. The evidence is clear that Mayor Garcetti either had direct knowledge of it or chose willful ignorance as a defence,” he added.

“The facts and the evidence compel me to oppose the Garcetti nomination and I hope my colleagues will join me in doing the same,” the senator added. 

If appointed, Garcetti will succeed Kenneth Juster who was US Ambassador to India from 2017 to 2021.

(With inputs from agencies)

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