A new Bloomberg report details how billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates was influential in lobbying Senator Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) to support Democrats’ massive spending bill.
Gates told the outlet he had quietly lobbied Manchin and other senators for the past three years, even before President Biden took office, to try to further funding for clean energy.
“My dialogue with Joe has been going on for quite a while,” Gates said, adding that he hosted a dinner in Washington, D.C., in 2019 that was attended by “almost everyone on the energy committee.” The topic of discussion at the dinner was the “role of innovation in climate,” Gates said.
Last year, after Manchin repeatedly cut off negotiations for Democrats’ spending bills — first about Build Back Better and later about a pared-down climate bill — Gates said he and Manchin “were able to talk even at a time when he felt people weren’t listening.”
After Manchin announced on December 19, 2021, that he would not support Build Back Better, Gates said he had lunch with the West Virginia senator and his wife, Gayle Connely Manchin, in Washington, D.C. Gates told Bloomberg they discussed the needs of West Virginia over lunch, at which time the billionaire suggested that if coal power plants and mining jobs are eliminated, those workers may be able to build new small nuclear-power plants, including via a company he founded called TerraPower.
Then, in the month leading up to the final passage of the Democrat-only spending bill — which President Biden signed into law on Tuesday — a massive effort to court Manchin was underway, the report says.
During that time, Gates was in contact with Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), he told Bloomberg. He recalled giving Schumer a pep talk after the lawmaker told him on a call that he’d “shown infinite patience.”
“You’re right,” Gates said he told Schumer. “And all you need to do is show infinite plus one patience.”
In the meantime, Collin O’Mara, the chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation, gathered economists to help address Manchin’s concerns. O’Mara said economists were able to “send this signal that [the bill’s] going to help with the deficit.”
“It’s going to be slightly deflationary and it’s going to spur growth and investment in all these areas,” O’Mara added.
Gates also met with Manchin on July 7 at the Sun Valley media conference in Idaho.
“We had a talk about what was missing, what needed to be done,” Gates said. “And then after that it was a lot of phone calls.”
“You know, people say Joe likes coal or something like that,” he said. “That’s really not fair. Joe wanted a climate bill.”
Gates said he does not want to “take credit for what went on.”
The BlueGreen Alliance coalition of environmental and labor groups spent 18 months lobbying Manchin as well. A group of senators, including Ron Wyden, Chris Coons, and John Hickenlooper, “worked together to reassure Manchin,” according to the report. Meanwhile, the West Virginia AFL-CIO and United Mine Workers of America “drove home the chance to fund black lung health benefits for miners who are legion in Manchin’s home state,” according to the report. The labor groups also underscored provisions that boost tax credits for projects using American-made materials, pay prevailing wages, or are located in the shadow of former coal plants and mines.
The House passed the so-called “Inflation Reduction Act” in a 220–207 vote on Friday. It passed the Senate one week earlier in a party-line vote using budget reconciliation, which allows a measure to pass with a simple majority rather than needing to meet a 60-vote threshold.
The bill, which received support from every Democrat in the House and Senate but no Republicans, will allocate $369 billion for energy and climate initiatives, while another $64 billion will be used to extend expiring federal subsidies for people buying health insurance for another three years. It will impose new taxes to pay for it.
Despite its name, the bill’s impact on inflation is “expected to be statistically indistinguishable from zero,” according to an independent analysis performed by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
Nonetheless, Gates called the bill’s passage “one of the happier moments” of his climate work.