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L.A. on the Record: Crunch time for Garcetti’s ambassador nomination

Mayor Eric Garcetti talks to reporters at Exposition Park.
Mayor Eric Garcetti talks to reporters after announcing the dates for the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games in L.A., at a July 18 news conference at Exposition Park.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to L.A. on the Record — our local elections newsletter. It’s Dakota Smith and Ben Oreskes here with a great deal of help from Julia Wick and our D.C.-based colleague Nolan McCaskill.

With the U.S. Senate scheduled to go on recess next week, is it now or never for Mayor Eric Garcetti and India?

The Senate typically pushes through a slog of bills and nominees before it goes on recess. But it all comes down to whether Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants to take up a vote next week on the mayor’s nomination for the ambassador post.

If it doesn’t happen now, Garcetti faces an uncertain fall. In September, when the Senate returns, Schumer is less likely to schedule controversial votes and certainly not ones where an “aye” from every Democrat isn’t assured.

Then there’s the question of what will happen in November and beyond. If the Democrats lose the Senate — which isn’t a foregone conclusion but certainly possible — Garcetti’s nomination would likely be toast.

During the mayor’s trip to Washington last week, Garcetti attended the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ business meeting, according to a statement from the group. The statement noted its “full support” for Garcetti for the India post and included a photo showing the mayor smiling alongside the group’s chairman, Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Coachella).

The Hispanic Caucus is largely composed of lawmakers in the House, who have no formal role in Senate-confirmed positions such as an ambassador post.

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Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) did not attend the meeting but told The Times he briefly bumped into Garcetti at a social event last week.

In addition to Garcetti talking about his work for Los Angeles, Carbajal recalled: “We also chatted about his confirmation and what that’s looking like. And, by all accounts, I think there seems to be a positive path forward, for the most part.”

In recent weeks, the mayor has been spotted by reporters at the White House and traipsing around the Capitol complex.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced Garcetti’s nomination in January. The Times reported in May that several Democrats expressed hesitation over backing Garcetti, suggesting bipartisan support would be necessary to get his nomination across the finish line.

The mayor and his former chief of staff face allegations that they were aware of a former top Garcetti aide’s inappropriate behavior. Both Garcetti and the former chief of staff deny the allegations, and the aide denies harassing anyone.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a member of the foreign relations panel, told The Times on Wednesday that there was an effort to appeal to Republicans who could support Garcetti on the Senate floor. “I’ve just got nothing to report,” he said, of the status of the nomination.

On Thursday, the mayor declined to say which Republicans he was courting to support his nomination. “I have been open and excited to talk to all,” Garcetti said, “whether they are Democratic or Republican senators.”

When Times reporter Dakota Smith asked whether it was “now or never” for his nomination, the mayor said he was “focused on being mayor” and added: “The meetings I took, I wasn’t in D.C. on this issue.”

“I took three different meetings,” he said, which were about transportation, COVID-19, and the Summit of the Americas.

When Smith pointed out that he also met with the Hispanic Caucus, and told the mayor he wasn’t being truthful, Garcetti walked away.

The mayor was also seen last week in D.C. with Breelyn Pete, a lobbyist hired by Garcetti’s parents, Sukey and Gil Garcetti, to advocate for the mayor’s nomination. The lobbying firm where she works reported Thursday $30,000 in income during the second quarter tied to Garcetti’s parents. The firm lobbied the White House, Senate and House, according to the firm’s filing.

The League of Conservation Voters also reported that it lobbied for Garcetti’s India post in the second quarter.

To this point, 95 of Biden’s ambassador nominees have been confirmed. Garcetti is one of 34 nominations currently being considered, according to the Partnership for Public Service.

State of play

— HRC WEIGHS IN: Another relatively quiet week in Los Angeles with another major Democratic endorsement for Rep. Karen Bass’ bid for mayor. On Thursday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endorsed Bass, saying she’s a “proven leader who will bring Angelenos together to solve problems while championing women’s rights and opportunities for young people.”

Clinton will headline a Zoom fundraiser for Bass next month.

We’ve previously looked at the question of whether the backing of these big-ticket national Democrats matters much. But it’s noteworthy that Bass has a near-monopoly on support from current and former elected officials in the Democratic Party.

Caruso’s endorsement list isn’t on his website, though one sent by his campaign includes a few unions, business groups, two police chiefs and a former (Republican) mayor. But there’s just one Democratic elected official: Councilman Joe Buscaino, former mayoral aspirant.

— $$$$: Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking to have a judge strike down the city’s decision to cut off his pay while he fights federal corruption charges.

STATE WATER WOES: A state water board official resigned this month, claiming the governor’s administration has “nearly eviscerated” the board’s ability to confront drought. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office has rejected the former California State Water Resources Control Board member’s criticisms.

— GONZALEZ TAKES THE HELM: This week, former San Diego Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez officially took over as head of the California Labor Federation, the “union of unions” that acts as an umbrella for the California labor movement. She also brought some surprise news: The United Farm Workers is joining the Fed.

— VOUCHER CRUNCH: To understand the homelessness crisis here in Los Angeles, one must understand how hard it is to navigate the system that exists to help people get federally subsidized rent. Our colleague Connor Sheets looks at this labyrinth and spotlights how behind the eight-ball the city’s housing department has been in getting people who have been approved for vouchers into apartments.

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QUICK HITS

  • Who’s running the city? Still Eric Garcetti (see above).
  • The latest in endorsements: UA Local 761, Plumbers & Fitters endorsed Faisal Gill for city attorney. The Los Angeles chapter of the Sierra Club and Kelly Gonez, school board president for the Los Angeles Unified School District, endorsed Lindsey Horvath’s bid for L.A. County supervisor. Unite Here Local 11 endorsed Erin Darling in the Council District 11 race.

(If you have an endorsement you’d like to flag for next week, please send it to us.)

  • Dig of the week: “People are not only rolling over in their graves, they’re actually tossing and turning in their graves right now,” Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson said of California liberals donating to Republican Rep. Liz Cheney’s Wyoming reelection campaign.
  • On the docket for next week: City Council is in session.

Stay in touch

That’s it for this week! Send your questions, comments and gossip to LAontheRecord@latimes.com. Did a friend forward you this email? Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Saturday morning.


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