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McConnell stands by criticism of companies and accuses Democrats of misrepresenting restrictive voting laws

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that the complaints he had leveled a day earlier at corporations for publicly protesting a new Georgia voting law were not said “very artfully” even as he stood by his criticism of the CEOs who he charged “ought to read the damn bill.”

McConnell also defended changes being made to voting laws by several states and insisted “there is nothing remotely involved in suppressing the vote by the adjustments the Georgia law made.”

His remarks came the day after he had said corporations were “stupid” for getting involved in the issue.

“Republicans buy stock, fly on planes and drink Coca-Cola too. So what I’m saying here is this is quite stupid, to jump into the middle of a highly controversial issue, especially when they got their facts wrong,” the Kentucky Republican said Tuesday in response to a question at a news conference in Louisville.

“I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They are certainly entitled to be involved in politics,” McConnell told reporters Wednesday in his home state of Kentucky about corporate entities like Delta Airlines, Coca Cola and Major League Baseball. “My principle complaint is that they didn’t read the darn bill.”

On Wednesday, McConnell highlighted remarks from President Joe Biden asserting that the Georgia law was designed to suppress minority voters and McConnell suggested the corporations didn’t do their own assessments before criticizing the law.

“The President of the United States called the bill a Jim Crow exercise to suppress voter turnout, presumably based on race because that’s what the Jim Crow allegation is. That bastion of conservativism, The Washington Post, gave the President four Pinocchios for lying about it,” McConnell said.

McConnell’s comments on Biden are an apparent reference to statements Biden made recently where he suggested the new Georgia election law would shorten voting hours. The law does not shorten Georgia’s Election Day hours and counties can choose to extend early voting to as early as 7 a.m. ET and as late as 7 p.m. The Washington Post gave Biden “Four Pinocchios” for the comments and CNN has described Biden’s remarks as “misleading.” Still, the new law imposes new voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, empowers state officials to take over local elections boards, limits the use of ballot drop boxes and makes it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water.

McConnell suggested businesses were being scared into reacting to Democratic criticism of the legislation.

“They got intimidated into adopting an interpretation of that by the Georgia Democrats in order to get their way. And what did it cost them? It cost them an All-Star game.”

McConnell said there is not a problem in the US getting people to the polls, citing the high turnout of the November election as proof.

“We don’t have a turnout problem in this country,” he said. “The turnout in 2020 was bigger than any presidential race since 1900 — 120 years. People’s votes are not being suppressed. Voting is more and more convenient all across America. Different states do it differently.”

McConnell has repeatedly defended states’ efforts tightening the rules related to voting. On Monday, he warned big businesses they would face “serious consequences” after accusing them of employing “economic blackmail” in attempts to influence voting laws.

“From election law to environmentalism to radical social agendas to the Second Amendment, parts of the private sector keep dabbling in behaving like a woke parallel government,” the Kentucky Republican said in a statement Monday. “Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order.”

Lawmakers in all but three states have introduced bills aimed at restricting ballot access, according to a new tally by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. Its latest report finds 361 bills restricting voting had been introduced in 47 states as of March 24. The total, released Thursday morning, marks a 43% rise in the number of bills introduced since Brennan last released a count a little over a month ago.

Florida, Arizona and Georgia were all battleground states in 2020 and will host US Senate races in 2022. Republican legislative majorities and GOP governors are moving to make it more difficult to vote in these states, with Georgia becoming the first of them to enact new restrictions this year.

The statements by McConnell earlier this week are particularly notable not only because he has long championed the involvement of corporate money in politics — a past position he attempted to square with new remarks on Tuesday — but because the Republican Party traditionally has been more sympathetic to big business.

McConnell has previously supported businesses’ involvement in politics, including backing the US Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case, which allowed big businesses more power to spend freely in federal elections. In 2014, he spoke out against Democrats’ attempts to allow Congress to set limits on corporate campaign spending in federal elections, calling it a threat to basic speech rights.

Asked about how he squares his support of Citizens United with his call for corporations to stay out of politics in the debate over election laws, McConnell said, “They have a right to participate in the political process. They do.”

“But selecting how you do that in a way that doesn’t completely alienate an awful lot of people who depend on your products strikes me as not very smart,” he said.

Article Topic Follows: National Politics

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