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5 things to know about Mayor Eric Garcetti’s confirmation hearing

Mayor Eric Garcetti
Mayor Eric Garcetti gives his annual State of the City speech in April 2020.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will appear Tuesday morning before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his hearing to become President Biden’s ambassador to India.

What’s going to happen?

The hearing, scheduled to start at 7 a.m. PST, will see the mayor give a statement to the committee and then take questions from senators.

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Biden’s nominee to be ambassador to Pakistan, Donald Armin Blome, and his pick for Germany, Amy Gutmann, also are scheduled to appear before the panel at the hearing.

Nominees can bring along family members or other supporters.

“Normally, hearings offer pretty softball questions,” said Ronald Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, who has held three ambassador posts. “But in the days of divided politics, you never quite know.”

Neumann said senators typically ask hard questions only if there are policy disagreements about the country or if the candidate has some political or personal baggage.

Why was the mayor nominated?

Ambassadorships are given to foreign service experts or as rewards for political supporters. A political appointee, Garcetti served as a co-chair of Biden’s presidential campaign and doesn’t have much expertise in India, although he has studied the languages and visited the country a handful of times.

Angelenos reacted to the news about the mayor being tapped by the Biden administration to be U.S. ambassador to India, following months of speculation.

In announcing his nomination, the White House emphasized Garcetti’s role overseeing the Los Angeles port and airport and his work leading C40, a global group that recommends policies to battle climate change. Garcetti has a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University, and he studied international relations as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University.

Who is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?

Chaired by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the committee is made up of 22 senators — an even split of Democrats and Republicans. On the panel is Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who knows Garcetti from their days studying together as Rhodes scholars. Booker campaigned for Garcetti in South Los Angeles when Garcetti ran for mayor in 2013.

What’s Garcetti’s baggage?

Garcetti could face questions about criticism that he and his top aides failed to address allegations of sexual harassment by his former top advisor, which he denies. The advisor also denies harassing anyone. Matthew Garza, a member of his former security detail, is suing the city over the alleged harassment.

“I’m disappointed but not surprised that the president is supporting Garcetti,” said Greg Smith, Garza’s attorney, who noted that the mayor helped support Biden’s presidential campaign. “Quite frankly, both my client and I are happy to see him leave and look forward to [City Council President Nury Martinez] taking the helm of city politics.”

An attorney for Naomi Seligman, Garcetti’s former communications director, sent a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this year that accused Garcetti of attempting to “cover up” his failure to address the advisor’s harassing behavior.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a committee member, could also make an issue of Garcetti’s relationship with Hunter Biden, the president’s son. Garcetti attended Biden’s L.A. art show this fall, raising conflict-of-interest issues around whether people would seek out Biden’s work to align themselves with his father. Cruz has consistently criticized Biden over his work and other matters.

Asked about the relationship between Garcetti and Biden, Garcetti spokesman Harrison Wollman told The Times that Biden “lives in Los Angeles and they know each other casually.”

What’s next?

After the hearing, senators may submit questions for the record, allowing them to follow up on things that they didn’t have time to ask during the hearing or that they felt were answered insufficiently. The committee will schedule a vote to report Garcetti’s nomination favorably, unfavorably or without recommendation.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is President Biden’s nominee to become ambassador to India.

If approved, Garcetti’s nomination goes to the full Senate. A simple majority is needed to pass, but Republicans have stalled the confirmation process by putting a “hold” on nominees.

The quickest path to Senate confirmation would be through the “hotline” process, which allows noncontroversial nominees to pass via unanimous consent without debate.

The lengthier, traditional process would require debate and a recorded roll call vote.

Smith reported from Los Angeles and McCaskill from Washington.


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