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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) claimed during a hearing Wednesday that Democrats' signature voting rights bill, the "For the People Act," is unnecessary because "states are not engaging in trying to suppress voters whatsoever."

Reality check: Republican lawmakers across the country are trying to pass measures to make it more difficult to vote by limiting mail-in ballots, implementing new voter ID requirements and slashing registration options.

  • "There are at least 165 proposals under consideration in 33 states so far this year to restrict future voting access," Axios' Russell Contreras and Stef Kight wrote in February.
  • In South Carolina, a proposal would require signature matching for absentee ballots. A New Hampshire proposal would allow anyone to observe polls "without obstruction." A Texas plan would require that the Department of Public Safety verify voters' citizenship.
  • "Some of these voter suppression laws in Georgia and other Republican states smack of Jim Crow rearing its ugly head once again," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) claimed ahead of McConnell's comments.

The big picture: McConnell and Schumer both made rare appearances at a hearing of the Senate Rules Committee, which is examining the Democratic proposal to expand voter registration (e.g., automatic and same-day registration) and voting access (e.g., vote by mail and early voting).

  • The For the People Act would require states to establish independent redistricting commissions to carry out congressional redistricting to eliminate partisan gerrymandering.
  • It would also expand the prohibition on campaign spending by foreign nationals, require additional campaign finance disclosures, force presidential and vice presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns, reform the Federal Election Commission, and more.

Between the lines: Protection of voting rights is one of the key issues that Democrats have said warrants getting rid of the 60-vote filibuster if Republicans insist on blocking the legislation.

What he's saying: "States are not engaged in trying to suppress voters whatsoever," McConnell said.

  • "This is clearly an effort by one party to rewrite the rules of our political system. But even more immediately, it would create an implementation nightmare ... that would drown state and local officials who run elections.
  • "This proposal needs all the scrutiny it can get and I'm glad we're all here to give it that scrutiny," McConnell added.

Go deeper

Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults

A vaccination center installed at the Barbara Chapel of St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Austria. Photo: Alex Halada/AFP via Getty Images

Austria's lower house of parliament voted on Thursday in favor of making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for most adults from next month.

Why it matters: The bill is expected to soon pass the upper house and be signed by President Alexander Van der Bellen in order for the law to take effect Feb. 1, per Reuters. It'd make Austria the first EU nation to impose such a sweeping mandate.

Hope King, author of Closer
Updated 4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Peloton pumps its brakes

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Peloton’s popularity is falling as swiftly as it shot up.

Why it matters: Not all pandemic habits stick around. Peloton's trajectory over the past two years exemplifies how challenging it's been for companies to gauge shifts in consumer demand — particularly in sectors heavily altered by the pandemic.

Mitch McConnell's remarks on Black voters raise ire

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during a Capitol Hill news conference earlier this year. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been widely criticized for comments he made this week about Black American voters.

Driving the news: When asked by a reporter Wednesday about concerns among voters of color, McConnell said "the concern is misplaced, because if you look at the statistics, Black American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans."