Apr 3, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Team Schumer voices doubts about Garcetti’s chances for India

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is seen speaking at the Capitol.
Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Chuck Schumer’s team is privately acknowledging to Senate Democrats that Eric Garcetti doesn’t currently have 50 votes within their caucus to be confirmed as ambassador to India, congressional aides tell Axios.

Why it matters: The comments by the Senate majority leader’s office, delivered Wednesday through his legislative director during a call with other LDs, mean the Los Angeles mayor is unlikely to receive a floor vote any time soon. Garcetti was formally nominated eight months ago.

  • The comments also indicate the growing concern — and confusion — within the Democratic Party about the fate of President Biden’s nominee to serve as ambassador to a crucial country resisting the administration’s efforts to get tougher on Russia.
  • The cold math of a 50-50 Senate may force Biden to pull Garcetti’s nomination and find another candidate who can be seated as his envoy to the world’s largest democracy.
  • The delay has also created leadership uncertainty for the nation's second-largest city and its 4 million residents.

Driving the news: Schumer’s team was asked about the timing of a possible Garcetti vote during a weekly call designed to provide a big-picture issues overview to Senate offices.

  • The staffer's comments were based on the public indications from some Democratic senators — a number of whom have said they want more information about allegations of workplace sexual harassment before supporting Garcetti.
  • At this time, Schumer’s office is not formally “whipping” the vote — asking senators how they plan to vote.

The comments were made before Axios reported Thursday that Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) had “concerns” about the allegations.

  • That brought the public number of wavering Democratic senators to five.
  • A spokesperson for Schumer declined to comment to Axios about the call contents.

The big picture: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has placed a “hold” on Garcetti’s nomination, pending his own independent investigations into the allegations. Sen. Joni Ernest (R-Iowa) has placed a second hold on the nomination.

  • Grassley told the Los Angeles Times he doesn’t expect to be finished with his investigation when the Senate returns from Easter recess on April 25, giving an outside group, Whistleblower Aid, more time to meet with senators from both parties.
  • The core of the allegations stems from a lawsuit filed by Los Angeles Police Department officer Matthew Garza, who claimed that Rick Jacobs, while the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, sexually harassed him.
  • Jacobs has denied the allegations and Garcetti has denied being aware of them.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee looked into the allegations and concluded Garcetti had been truthful in a legal deposition during which he denied any knowledge.

  • Garcetti’s nomination was voted out of committee in January without Republican opposition.
  • On March 25, a State Department official briefed Senate chiefs of staff, explaining the allegations had been investigated by the department and the committee and they determined Garcetti didn’t know about the alleged behavior.

Between the lines: A former Garcetti communications director, Naomi Seligman, continues to arrange meetings with Democratic offices, alleging she also was a victim of harassment from Jacobs.

  • Meanwhile, a different Garcetti aide wrote to senators last Monday, questioning Seligman’s account, Politico reported.

Editor’s note: This headline was updated to reflect doubts about Eric Garcetti’s chances for confirmation.

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