WASHINGTON — The Senate voted 52-42 Wednesday to advance Eric Garcetti’s nomination as US ambassador to India, a key test vote that sets final confirmation later that day.

Garcetti’s long-delayed nomination turned unusually contentious and sparked last-minute drama. First nominated in July 2021, he had been withheld in part over concerns about how he handled allegations of sexual misconduct against a former assistant while he was mayor of Los Angeles. Garcetti has denied any wrongdoing.

Several Democrats voted against advancing his nomination, but enough Republicans backed Garcetti to advance.

Barring unexpected twists, a final vote scheduled for Wednesday afternoon would give the United States its first permanent ambassador to India under President Joe Biden, more than two years into his term.

“The relationship between the United States and India is extremely important, and it’s great that we now have an ambassador,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said after the procedural vote.

The breach has irritated many lawmakers from both parties, considering the emphasis the administration has placed on India as a strategic and geopolitical partner, even as a bulwark against China.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said that India is the «world’s greatest democracy,» an «ally of the United States.» key and «part of the Quad», the security alliance that also includes Australia, Japan and the US.

“This is a really important relationship, increasingly important, and they deserve a confirmed ambassador. They do,» Kaine said. “If you don’t confirm an ambassador, the nation gets the message ‘I guess this shouldn’t be that important.’ And we don’t want to send that message to any nation, but especially India.»

Some Republicans questioned the qualifications of Garcetti, who served as the national co-chair of Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign.

“I just don’t think he’s qualified, especially with all the questions still hanging around his previous term,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., referring to Garcetti’s time as mayor.

The vote led to an unusual ideological struggle. Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii revealed Wednesday that they would vote no, along with Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona. But a group of Republicans voted in favor and helped secure the necessary support, including Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Steve Daines of Montana, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Todd Young. from Indiana.

Hirono said before the vote that there was «additional information given to me in confidence, but very credible, which leads me to vote against it.» She did not say what that information was.

Sen. Mike Rounds, RS.D., who previously supported Garcetti on the committee, voted against the nomination Wednesday, attributing his change to new information he had learned.

Garcetti’s nomination was approved by the Foreign Relations Committee last week, with the support of Democrats and two Republicans: Hagerty and Young.

«It’s a growing economy and it’s one of our most critical strategic relationships,» said Hagerty, a former US ambassador to Japan. «And not having an ambassador there, I think he sends the completely wrong message.»

ryan nobles, Ali Vitali and Alexandra Cod contributed.

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