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How economists think the White House should potentially scale back Biden's $3.5 trillion agenda

The White House is contemplating how to scale back President Biden's ambitious $3.5 trillion economic agenda if they're forced to accommodate centrist holdouts like Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), The Washington Post reports, citing five people with knowledge of the internal discussions. 

Biden has suggested the sides reach a compromise at $2.3 trillion, but Manchin has maintained that he wants the reconciliation bill to top out at $1.5 trillion. There may yet be some sort of truce, but the administration must be prepared for cuts to the sweeping legislative package, which will likely be "really ugly and really painful," Jim Manley, who served as an aide to former Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), told the Post.

Economists think the White House should focus their efforts on prioritizing a handful of key programs for long-term success. "If Congress needs to shrink the legislation, it is much better to drop the lowest priority programs than to try to do everything," Jason Furman, a former Obama administration economist, told the Post

Another economist speaking on condition of anonymity agreed, saying that "you really don't want to roll out a huge number of programs poorly."

Of course, the consolidation strategy means Democrats would have to back off of some campaign promises. For example, the Post notes that a package consisting only of climate change proposals, a national paid leave program, and extending a tax benefit that alleviates child poverty would hit Manchin's target, meaning a slew of other priorities, including free child care and more affordable housing, could be left out. Read more at The Washington Post.