WASHINGTON — Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger was at the White House on Wednesday to speak at an event focused on the potential benefits to businesses of a package of social and environmental initiatives that cleared the House last year but has since stalled in the Senate.
The nearly $2 trillion bill, called the Build Back Better Act, includes, among other things, $550 billion in spending and tax credits aimed at promoting clean energy, as well as other provisions that would bolster family services, health care and other programs.
Linebarger joined President Joe Biden and top executives at nine other major corporations, including General Motors, Ford, Microsoft and HP at the event.
The event started shortly after 1 p.m., with the president making some opening remarks about the bill, at one point saying “the industrial Midwest, believe it or not, is coming back. …It’s coming back and doing some of the most sophisticated manufacturing in the world.”
After Biden’s opening remarks, reporters started shouting questions at the president about his plans to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court after Justice Stephen Breyer announced Wednesday that he would retire.
“I’ll be happy to talk about this later,” Biden told the reporters.
The president then turned his attention to Linebarger, who was sitting at the end of the table, and jokingly asked: “Do you want to go to the Supreme Court, Tom?”
Linebarger, who was wearing a mask, laughed and said, “I’m just doing to demur on that one.”
During the meeting, Linebarger spoke for about two minutes, calling climate change “the existential crisis of our time” and expressing optimism that Cummins can make “a big investment and a big effort” to address climate change.
“But we can’t do it alone,” Linebarger told the president. “The truth is we need investments, (the) tax credits in the Build Back Better Act for hydrogen and clean trucks will play a big role in getting all of us to invest in infrastructure and other things that we need to get this going.”
“I think we’re out of time,” Linebarger said as he talked with Biden. “My view is that we’re out of time to protect our climate, and we’re out of time to make sure that American companies are the ones that lead the world in these technologies. When we invest, we can win, and we can create jobs for our workers here in the United States. That’s what we intend to do at Cummins.”
Then Biden started asking the Cummins chief executive about social spending provisions in the bill, including child care.
“You’re one of the world’s largest engine manufacturers, and they tell me you have nearly … 60,000 employees now? And you’ve talked about being raised … by a single mom who worked through school caring for you and your brother. And for your employees and for your mom at home, what is the benefit of the Build Back Better provisions relating to child care from a business standpoint?” Biden asked.
“Mr. President, I would just say that my mom would be incredibly honored to even be in the conversation at this table,” Linebarger replied. “…I would just say that we’re going to make whatever investments we need to do our part, and I really appreciate the efforts of this administration to put the climate first in this bill … and I hope that our leaders can see the future and the investments that need to be made to make sure climate change is addressed.”
Biden then asked Linebarger another question relating to, from a business standpoint, the child care tax credit.
“At Cummins, we’ve always been thoughtful about not only how our business does, but how our communities do,” Linebarger replied. “And we think that our company can never be stronger than the communities in which we live and work. And there’s no question that the families that work for our company, child care is a significant burden to them. So, it’s clearly an issue that needs to be addressed. And there’s no question that we hear about it a lot. We offered new benefits in our company of for both child care and for family leave, and I get more notes about that than pretty much anything else I do.”
“I bet you do,” Biden said before turning his attention to the president and vice chairman of Microsoft.
For the complete story and more photos, see Thursday’s Republic.