WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday voted to move forward with the confirmation of Eric Garcetti, the former mayor of Los Angeles, to be the U.S. ambassador to India, effectively ending a two-year saga that left a top diplomatic post vacant amid allegations that he mishandled workplace misconduct and sexual harassment.
On a test vote, Mr. Garcetti’s nomination advanced by a vote of 52 to 42, with a few Democratic senators who had expressed deep reservations voting “no” but several more Republicans voting in favor of moving forward, effectively saving Mr. Garcetti’s bid from collapse.
It was a victory for President Biden, who has stuck by his political ally in the face of the allegations and the prolonged process that has left the United States without a permanent envoy in one of the world’s most populous and geopolitically important democracies.
With the test vote behind them, Democratic leaders were expected to move quickly toward confirming Mr. Garcetti later Wednesday.
Mr. Garcetti, who dropped a presidential exploratory bid in 2019 to become an early backer of Mr. Biden’s campaign, had been on the shortlist for a number of cabinet posts before being nominated as ambassador to India.
But his nomination languished amid a Republican blockade of Mr. Biden’s Senate-confirmed nominees. It sank further after Senate Republicans produced an investigative report last year that found “numerous credible allegations from multiple whistle-blowers” of misconduct by a top aide to Mr. Garcetti, and “it is more likely than not that Mayor Garcetti either had personal knowledge of the sexual harassment or should have been aware of it.”
Mr. Garcetti has consistently denied the accusations, and the White House has dismissed them as partisan attacks, but they effectively stalled action in the Senate, leaving Mr. Garcetti’s fate up in the air.
In recent days, Mr. Garcetti’s nomination appeared to have picked up momentum. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week approved it with the support of two Republicans, Senators Todd Young of Indiana and Bill Hagerty of Tennessee. Mr. Garcetti and his allies were optimistic that the precarious nomination was moving in the right direction.
But resistance remained among most Republicans, and as a vote of the full Senate approached, some Democrats voiced concerns.
Speaking at a fund-raiser in Nevada on Tuesday night, Mr. Biden called it an “important vote.” White House officials had been reaching out to senators to press Mr. Garcetti’s case, in an attempt to put him over the top in what they knew would be a close vote.
On Wednesday, seven Republicans joined most Democrats in supporting him, while three Democrats — Senators Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Mark Kelly of Arizona — broke with the party to oppose him. The backing of the Republicans — Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, Steve Daines of Montana, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Mr. Hagerty and Mr. Young — was enough for the nomination to advance.
Mr. Garcetti himself was never accused of misconduct. But a former member his security detail, who has sued the city, accused his former deputy chief of staff of sexual harassment. The officer and a second former city employee, who served as communications director, said that Rick Jacobs, a prominent Democratic fund-raiser in the Los Angeles gay community and top mayoral adviser, had made sexual remarks and gestures and had acted inappropriately toward subordinates. They claimed that Mr. Garcetti had known and had failed to act on complaints about it.
In the days leading up to the vote, another person who claimed to have been harassed and assaulted by Mr. Jacobs shared personal stories with the chiefs of staff of Democratic and Republican senators. The person insisted on anonymity for fear of retaliation.
Those conversations appeared to have swayed some senators. Ms. Hirono had previously indicated she planned to support Mr. Garcetti. But on Wednesday she said in a statement that “earlier this week I received additional information that, when taken in its totality with the information already available, has led me to be a ‘no’ on Mr. Garcetti’s nomination.”
Mr. Garcetti has said that he “never witnessed” the alleged harassment, and that none of those incidents were ever brought to his attention. He added that, had he known, he would have acted to stop it because addressing abuse in the workplace is “a core issue” for him.
But the nomination hit a snag when Naomi Seligman, his former communications director, began publicly pressing to hold him accountable for alleged misconduct in his office and Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, released the 23-page report detailing sexual harassment allegations against Mr. Garcetti’s former aide and the likelihood that Mr. Garcetti knew or should have been aware.
“Senators on both sides of the aisle have seen extensive credible evidence that Mr. Garcetti enabled a sexual predator at City Hall for years and lied about it in his confirmation hearing,” Ms. Seligman said in a statement. “If it weren’t for political pressure from the White House, this nomination would never reach the Senate floor.”
The White House called the report “partisan” and “a hit job from the beginning,” adding that “many of the claims have already been conclusively debunked by more serious independent reports.” Mr. Garcetti’s parents — his father is a former Los Angeles County district attorney — spent at least $90,000 on a lobbyist to defend him.
In an interview before the midterm election, as he was preparing to depart City Hall, Mr. Garcetti said Mr. Biden was determined to stick with the nomination and that he was confident he would be confirmed.
“I have great bipartisan support in my private conversations with senators,” Mr. Garcetti said at the time. “I’m still very optimistic. And the president was optimistic with me.”
The nomination died at the end of the last Congress, and in January, Mr. Biden renominated Mr. Garcetti.