Loeffler withdraws support for challenge, Congress accepts Biden win in Georgia

WASHINGTON — Citing the violence that shook the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler abandoned her plan to challenge Georgia’s electoral results and shut down an effort by several of Georgia’s Republican House members to stop the state’s 16 electoral votes from being cast for Joe Biden.

Loeffler, who lost her runoff Tuesday but remains in office until her successor is sworn in, initially said she would object as a final act of fealty to President Donald Trump.

That changed after rioters forced their way inside the U.S. Capitol, looted the Senate chambers and broke windows trying to enter the House chambers. One woman was shot and killed by U.S. Capitol Police.

“The events that transpired have forced me to reconsider, and I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these electors,” Loeffler said in a speech on the Senate floor. “The violence, the lawlessness and siege of the halls of Congress are abhorrent and stand as a direct attack on what my objection was intended to protect, the sanctity of the American democratic process.”

Georgia’s voting system manager, Gabriel Sterling, applauded Loeffler for her remarks.

“Thank you Senator Loeffler,” he wrote on Twitter. “You have done the right thing.”

Later that evening when the joint congressional session reconvened, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro, introduced his Georgia challenge. Republican Georgia U.S. Reps. Rick Allen, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Buddy Carter stood with him.

“Myself, members of the Georgia delegation and some 74 of my Republican colleagues object to the electoral votes from the state of Georgia on the grounds the election conducted on Nov. 3 was faulty and fraudulent due to unilateral actions by the secretary of state to unlawfully change the state’s election process without approval from the General Assembly,” Hice said before claiming there had been an “unprecedented amount of fraud and irregularities” during the general election.

Without the required support from at least one senator, Hice’s petition was rejected by Vice President Mike Pence, who presided over the joint session.

Both chambers had paused the Electoral College tally for several hours Wednesday afternoon while police subdued the rioters and cleared the Capitol. When they reconvened, it was to pick up where they left off: debating in their separate chambers whether to accept the 11 electoral votes from Arizona cast for Biden.

Georgia Republicans Allen, Hice, Greene, Carter, Barry Loudermilk and Andrew Clyde all voted in favor of rejecting Arizona’s tally.

Reps. Austin Scott and Drew Ferguson were among the GOP members who sided with Democrats in rejecting the challenge.

Earlier, Greene, R-Rome, had promised to continue to challenge Georgia’s electoral votes even as she condemned the insurrection.

“I’m not for any violence, I’m not,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’m for the constitutional process that we are doing and still have to finish.”

Loudermilk was also among the Republicans who supported the challenge but spoke out against the riots at the Capitol.

“Violence against our brave law enforcement is not in line with our values as freedom-loving Americans,” Loudermilk, from Cassville, wrote on Twitter. “I strongly support our rights to peacefully protest, but strongly condemn any acts of violence against our brave officers of the Capitol Police or others.”

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop watched from his office window as the protests unfolded, and he was there when the rioting began.

“There was quite a bit of mayhem, violence,” the Albany Democrat said. “I saw people climbing and scaling the walls of the Capitol, breaking windows and entering from windows.”

He and other Democratic members of the delegation were preparing speeches in anticipation that Loeffler would allow the objection to proceed. That would have resulted in up to two hours of debate before a vote on whether to proceed on tossing Georgia’s electoral votes.

But Loeffler changed her mind, and other senators followed suit.