Mar 31, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Another Dem senator has "concerns" about Garcetti

Sen. Richard Blumenthal is seen during a congressional hearing.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) says he has “concerns” about the sexual harassment allegations surrounding Eric Garcetti, publicly raising the possibility he could oppose President Biden’s nominee for ambassador to India.

Why it matters: Two Senate Republicans have already placed “holds” on the Los Angeles mayor's nomination, preventing a speedy floor vote. Blumenthal's added doubts mean Garcetti’s nomination is firmly in limbo — and in danger of suffocating.

  • India is a focal point for current U.S. policy.
  • Biden officials have been frustrated by its failure to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • They announced Tuesday that Daleep Singh, deputy national security adviser for International Economics and White House point person on sanctions, will visit India later this month.

While Democratic senators have been privately discussing the allegations against Garcetti, Blumenthal is openly declaring he needs to hear more from whistleblowers.

  • Whistleblower Aid, a nonprofit organization, filed a perjury complaint against Garcetti on behalf of Naomi Seligman. The group has been reaching out to Democratic and Republican Senate offices.
  • They allege Garcetti was aware of charges of sexual harassment by one of his top aides and knowingly misrepresented his role in the matter to the Senate.
  • Garcetti and the aide, Rick Jacobs, have denied the allegations.
  • Another Garcetti aide wrote to senators on Monday questioning the account raised by the whistleblower, Naomi Seligman, Politico reported.

What they're saying: “I have concerns because I've seen and heard about the allegations,” Blumenthal, a former state attorney general, told Axios on Wednesday. “I want to put them to rest, if that's possible, before I vote.”

  • “So, I'm going to talk to some of my colleagues,” he said, adding he hasn’t made “any final conclusion.”

On Wednesday, Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) joined Sens. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in indicating he also wanted to review Garcetti’s qualifications.

  • The Arizona Republic reported Kelly "has concerns about this nomination based on the serious allegations raised by whistleblowers and is continuing to evaluate it,” said Jacob Peters, a Kelly spokesperson.
  • Earlier this week, Gillibrand told CNN: "I know Eric, and I'll wait to see if the vote is called up and make my determination then."
  • A spokesperson for Sinema told Politico: “As she does with all nominees, Kyrsten is doing her due diligence and thoughtfully evaluating the nomination based on her three criteria: whether or not he is professionally qualified, believes in the mission of the agency and can be trusted to faithfully execute and uphold the law.”

The other side: “The president has confidence in Mayor Garcetti and believes he’ll be an excellent representative in India," said a White House spokesperson. "His nomination advanced unanimously with bipartisan support in committee."

  • A Garcetti spokesperson told Axios: "Mayor Garcetti has been an open book since Day One on this issue, including before his unanimous, bipartisan approval by the [Senate] Foreign Relations Committee, and he is happy to meet with any senator to discuss the false claims.”

Driving the news: Last week, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) joined Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in placing a hold on Garcetti's nomination, Axios reported.

  • A State Department official also briefed Senate chiefs of staff, telling them the whistleblower claims had been investigated by the department and Foreign Relations Committee, Politico first reported.

The bottom line: Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will have to make a decision about how much political capital to expend to get Garcetti’s nomination across the finish line.

  • “He’s on the floor,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday. “They have to decide to give him a vote.”
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