The White House views Barra as an ally on this front. She met President Joe Biden at the White House on Wednesday as part of a meeting of CEOs in support of the Build Back Better Act; There she thanked the President for the opportunity to speak about their “aligned goals in relation to the transition to an all-electric future”.
But people close to General Motors and the Business Roundtable stressed that Barra is walking a balancing act in becoming the face of one of the most powerful groups in Washington’s business community. The federation’s stance on BBB remains unchanged and has been made very public urged lawmakers to reject the president’s domestic political agenda. General Motors’ stance also remains unchanged, even though the two share a common emissary. A White House official said Barra was invited to Wednesday’s event in her capacity as General Motors chairman and CEO, not as chair of the business roundtable.
A person close to General Motors thinking said that as the rotating face of the business roundtable, Barra does not drive the agenda of the nonprofit group. Its stance is driven by the consensus of its members, the person said, and while the Business Roundtable is staunchly opposed to the bill’s tax provisions, General Motors remains committed to electric vehicle components.
“General Motors has made our support for Build Back Better very clear, particularly the climate change regulations, which will accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and support the expansion of the U.S. supply chain,” Jeannine Ginivan, a spokeswoman for General Motors, said in a statement . “Mary was at the White House this week to support Build Back Better. She was there in her role as Chairman and CEO of General Motors.”
Ginivan referred the statement on the Business Roundtable’s position to the association itself.
When asked about the apparent contradiction between the Business Roundtable’s position and its new chair, the group issued a statement that carefully threaded the needle between endorsing the climate change bill’s provisions and criticizing its tax increases.
“Business Roundtable supports investments in climate protection programs and incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but we oppose harmful tax increases for job creation,” said the group’s CEO Joshua Bolten. “We believe that the economy as a whole will suffer if Congress passes the sweeping and anti-competitive tax hikes contained in the legislation passed by the House.”
The Business Roundtable is consistently one of the top-spending trade associations in Washington, investing less in lobbying in 2021 than only the US Chamber of Commerce, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and the National Association of Realtors.
The $29.1 million the trade group spent on lobbying last year is the highest in more than two decades Data from Open Secrets, which surpasses the $27.4 million the Roundtable spent in 2017 campaigning for the passage of the GOP tax cuts. The group ran a series of digital displays, which sometimes targets the Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin‘s State of West Virginia or Sen. Kyrsten cinema‘s Arizona to bolster resistance to tax hikes before Congress.
Barra’s election to lead the group was a victory for the White House. She received the President at a General Motors facility in November, when the President ventured to Detroit to sell the government’s infrastructure bill. At the end of the Trump administration, as Biden’s election victory became clear, General Motors returned its support for a government lawsuit challenging California’s ability to enforce its vehicle pollution standards. The President and Barra appeared in a video together, pushed by the White House on Wednesday, in which Barra said she was “so happy to support your agenda on climate change and achieving an all-electric future.”
In a statement, White House spokesman Andrew Bates stressed that General Motors had expressed “strong support” for the legislation.
Caitlin Oprysko contributed to this report.