Washington: Former Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti won his tumultuous bid to become US ambassador to India on Wednesday, filling a key diplomatic position that has been vacant for more than two years.
The 52-year-old Democrat was nominated by President Joe Biden in 2021, while he was still leading America’s second largest city.
But the nomination stalled over criticism of the mayor’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against an aide.
Unlike envoys from most countries, ambassadors representing the United States require approval by the Senate to serve abroad, often leading to lengthy delays, although Garcetti’s nomination took even longer than usual.
US media reported that the Garcetti family had hired lobbyists to argue his case in Washington as he went on a charm offensive with members of Congress to boost his chances.
The effort paid off as Garcetti won 52 votes in the 100-member Senate - two more than he needed to secure the posting.
Several Democrats voted against advancing his nomination, but he was backed by seven Republicans to become the top diplomat with one of Washington’s critical strategic partners.
“The United States-India relationship is extremely important, and it’s a very good thing we now have an ambassador,” Democratic majority leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor.
India’s foreign ministry welcomed Garcetti’s confirmation on Thursday.
“We look forward to working with him,” ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi told reporters.
Barred from seeking a third term as mayor, Garcetti had once been seen as a rising star in Democratic Party politics and flirted with a presidential run.
His ambassadorial bid was overshadowed by accusations that he did not act after discovering his former chief of staff was alleged to have made unwanted sexual advances on a number of people around him.
Garcetti, who completed his two terms at LA’s City Hall in 2022, testified at his December 2021 confirmation hearing that he “never witnessed, nor was it brought to my attention, the behaviour that’s been alleged.”