Kelly Loeffler will challenge electoral college results

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler said Monday that she will join the effort to formally challenge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory when Congress convenes later this week, a move she avoided for weeks but announced shortly before President Donald Trump’s visit to North Georgia in a push to drive up rural white support ahead of Tuesday’s high-stakes runoff.

In a statement, Loeffler said her vote would give the president and “the American people the fair hearing they deserve and support the objection of the Electoral Certification process.” It came after weeks of hedging over whether she would join about a dozen other GOP senators in a move chastised by Democrats, and many Republicans, as an assault on democracy.

The decision came as Trump prepared to headline a rally for Loeffler and David Perdue in Dalton, the heart of a deeply conservative northwest Georgia region where voter participation has trailed other parts of the state. Tuesday’s vote will decide control of the U.S. Senate, and Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock need to sweep to flip the chamber.

Loeffler has refused since November to acknowledge that Biden is the president-elect or that he rightfully won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes. It was a clear sign that she and Perdue have been under immense pressure not to alienate the president — and his loyal base — ahead of the high-stakes election.

She had until now been noncommittal over whether she would join an effort by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and nearly a dozen other senators to challenge Biden’s victory when Congress meets Wednesday to formally ratify the Electoral College vote. Perdue, meanwhile, cannot vote because his term expired Sunday. If he wins, he won’t take office until the vote is certified in weeks.

The effort to challenge the outcome is doomed to fail. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has congratulated Biden on his victory and told his GOP colleagues that he wouldn’t back the push to circumvent the voters’ will.

Still, some supporters of the president have sought to cast Loeffler, who has relentlessly promoted her pro-Trump voting record, as a wild card who could join the challenge in the Senate. Pressed on her stance over the weekend, she said she was focused on the Tuesday runoffs and hadn’t made up her mind yet.

Courts at every level have rejected challenges from Trump and his allies, including a U.S. Supreme Court decision in December to toss a lawsuit brought by Texas to throw out the election results in Georgia and other battleground states.

During his visit to Georgia in December, Biden pressed Georgians to remember that Loeffler and Perdue both endorsed that ill-fated Texas lawsuit as he urged Democrats to rally behind Ossoff and Warnock.

“Maybe your senators were just confused. Maybe they think they represent Texas,” Biden said. “Well, if they want to do the bidding of Texas, they should be running there instead of here in Georgia.”