With Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley Tuesday announcing his adamantine opposition to former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti being conformed as the next ambassador to India, it appears the only way he’s going to get to New Delhi now is either on his own “Eat, Pray, Love” tour or being appointed by President Joe Biden as “acting” ambassador within the next 19 days.
Grassley has been Garcetti’s arch-nemesis in his quest for the job; after Garcetti testified (his only appearance on Capitol Hill) before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last December, numerous whistleblowers – including former top City Hall staffers and political supporters – cried foul when the ex-mayor claimed he was completely unaware – let alone a personal witness to – the numerous alleged incidents of sexual harassment engaged in by his deputy Chief of Staff and main political fixer Rick Jacobs.
Garcetti’s apparent lie, coupled with his seeming tolerance of the egregious behavior of Jacobs, lack of DC political favors to call in, and incompetent tenure as mayor, have all made his actual official confirmation by the Senate as ambassador essentially impossible, even with his party effectively controlling the chamber. Read here for a deeper dive into the relational dynamic between Garcetti and Jacobs, both of whom reportedly recently attended the inauguration of Garcetti’s successor Karen Bass.
Exactly what the ultimate impact of Grassley’s move is not yet clear, though considering what has transpired in the process so far, a decision to call for a snap vote on the nomination before the Senate goes out of session next Wednesday now becomes even more extremely unlikely. Even with the mid-terms in the rear view mirror, more than a few Democrats are leery of being seen publicly supporting a hypocritical enabler of (alleged) jaw-droppingly icky sexual harassment and blatant racism.
That leaves one path open for Garcetti and that is a “recess appointment” by President Biden. During the 12 or so days between the end of the current session and the new Congress convening on January 3, the President could simply declare Garcetti ambassador without Senate approval.
This tack does carry certain rather heavy baggage, though. First, it would mean Biden would have to dodge political flack for going out-of-his-way by making such an unusual move for the benefit of a person widely perceived as an incompetent bald-faced liar and an arch-hypocrite.
Second, while recess appointments are largely functionally the same as confirmed appointments, there are differences, the main one being that Garcetti would be Acting Ambassador, not simply Ambassador, with no guarantees Biden will try again to get him the job permanently.
Third, as to that issue of permanence, recess appointments expire at the end of the next session of Congress, meaning Garcetti’s term as Acting Ambassador would be limited to one year only.
Fourth, if Garcetti is made Acting Ambassador (something Biden could have done months and months ago but clearly chose not to for political – i.e. the mid-terms – reasons) and is re-nominated for the permanent post and fails yet again to be approved, various tangled legal issues – including his ability to remain in place as a recess appointment and even whether or not he could receive a salary – come to the fore.
The Jacobs issue – particularly his “I was holding my breath when I had my mask down,” denial when he claimed “I want to say unequivocally that I never witnessed, nor was it brought to my attention, the behavior that’s been alleged, and I also want to assure you if it had been, I would have immediately taken action to stop that” has made him nomination non grata for the past 17 months.
Few believed Garcetti’s assertion and Grassley – after receiving the whistleblower information – conducted an investigation into the allegations, finding “it is more probable than not that Mr. Jacobs sexually harassed multiple individuals, and made racist comments towards others…(That) this behavior was pervasive, widespread, and notorious….(And) that Mayor Garcetti was aware of this behavior, and based on the reported frequency and conspicuous nature of the conduct, it is more likely than not that Mayor Garcetti either had personal knowledge of the sexual harassment or should have been aware of it.”
Tuesday, Grassley was unambiguous about his position on Garcetti’s nomination:
“There is no place for sexual misconduct or racism. Mayor Garcetti had countless opportunities over the years to stand up for victims by removing his chief deputy chief of staff, which he failed to do. These fundamental failures by Garcetti are incompatible with the office that he seeks.”
“(T)herefore, I cannot in good conscience vote for him. I strongly encourage my colleagues to review all this evidence found in my investigative report as well as what’s reported in the press. The facts and the evidence compel me to vote no, and I hope my colleagues will join me in doing the same.”
Of course, if he is slitheringly appointed and turns out to be the best ambassador ever and proves it to the Senate so convincingly that they forget he lied to them and caused unnecessary political angst and actually confirm him this time then the “Acting” – so apropos for an LA mayor – would go away.
Interestingly while Grassley’s announcement garnered many major headlines in India (the government of which is reportedly feeling rather snubbed/put out/miffed/ignored by the delay), an internet search Wednesday afternoon found exactly zero mentions of the statement in the American media.
So starting next week, ultimate Beta male Garcetti will be waiting – as he has done so often in life – to see if someone else does the heavy lifting for him and gives him shiny new job for Christmas.
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