Biden Expected to Nominate Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti as U.S. Ambassador to India
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti seen speaking about the importance of infrastructure during a news conference with fellow mayors and members of Congress outside the U.S. Capitol on May 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is expected to announce he is nominating Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to be his ambassador to India, and former senior State Department official Nicholas Burns to serve as his ambassador to China, according to a person familiar with the matter.
With the selections, Biden is turning to a longtime political ally and a seasoned diplomat to serve in two of the country’s highest-profile diplomatic postings.
It was not clear when either nomination would be announced, according to the person familiar with the matter, who was not authorized to publicly comment on the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity. The White House declined to comment on either Garcetti or Burns and noted that “no one is final until they’re announced.”
Garcetti and Burns, if confirmed by the Senate, would come to their postings at high-pressure moments in the U.S. relationships with India and China.
Garcetti, if confirmed, would be dispatched to India as it has been overwhelmed by a surge in coronavirus infections and deaths. India’s death toll is the third highest reported in the world after the U.S. and Brazil, and true numbers are thought to be significantly greater.
Alex Comisar, a spokesperson in Garcetti’s mayoral office, declined to comment.
Garcetti, 50, who considered a 2020 White House bid and later became part of Biden’s inner circle, emerged as a widely discussed possibility to join Biden’s Cabinet last year. But he took himself out of the running, saying the raging coronavirus crisis made it impossible for him to step away.
The two-term mayor would leave LA with an uneven record. He has been credited with continuing a transit buildup in a city choked with traffic, establishing tougher earthquake safety standards for thousands of buildings, and steering the city through the deadly pandemic as it became a hot spot for infections. Cases have fallen steeply in the city and some restrictions have been rolled back, consistent with the trajectory in the state.
But Garcetti was overmatched by a crisis of homelessness that became a national embarrassment despite the massive jump in government spending to fight it. Many streets and sidewalks remain cratered and crumbling, despite his early pledge to make fixing them a cornerstone of his administration.
A lawsuit alleges that a former top staffer sexually harassed one of the mayor’s police bodyguards while Garcetti ignored it or laughed it off. The mayor denies the claims. One of his former deputy mayors was also indicted on corruption charges in an ongoing federal investigation at City Hall. And as is the case in many large cities, the crime rate in LA is spiking.
In picking Garcetti, the president would be rewarding a loyalist who was one of his national campaign co-chairs, who served on the committee that vetted his pool of vice presidential contenders, and who served as one of several co-chairs for Biden’s inaugural committee.
The India posting would allow the politically ambitious Garcetti to burnish his foreign policy credentials ahead of a possible future White House run. That’s a conspicuous gap on his resume — the Ivy League graduate and Rhodes scholar has spent two decades in city government, either as mayor or a city councilman.
Garcetti’s popularity has slipped in recent years, and Black Lives Matter protesters had banged drums outside his official residence earlier this year to urge Biden not to choose Garcetti for a Cabinet position.
Axios first reported that Biden was ready to nominate Garcetti as ambassador to India and that Burns was the president’s likely choice for ambassador to China.