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WASHINGTON — A senior White House adviser expressed confidence that a key Democratic senator who raised objections to President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion tax and spending package can eventually be persuaded to give his backing.

Sen. Joe Manchin, who last week demanded a “strategic pause” in Biden’s economic agenda, should be “very persuadable” by the argument that the package as envisaged “adds nothing to the debt,” White House chief of staff Ron Klain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“We’ve worked with Sen. Manchin every step of the way,” Klain said. “We’re going to work together to find a way to put together a package that can pass the House, that can pass the Senate, that can be put on the president’s desk and signed into law.”

The West Virginia senator, whose vote is potentially decisive in an evenly divided U.S. Senate, wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Thursday that rising inflation and a soaring national debt require a go-slow approach and a “significantly” smaller plan than the one Democratic leaders and the White House have endorsed.

Klain pushed back against the notion that Biden’s agenda could be headed for defeat in Congress this fall. “All I’ve heard is how this package is going to be dead,” he said. “And yet, amazingly, it continues to advance.”

Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican who has been part of talks with the White House on a separate bipartisan infrastructure bill, said he took Manchin as signaling that he would accept a headline amount smaller than $3.5 trillion.

That means it’s likely that the vote on the package will be delayed, he said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
“Implicit in what Joe said is that he would accept a smaller bill,” Cassidy said.

Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser to Biden, said the administration will work with Manchin as part of the legislative process, “but we’re also going to continue to push our agenda.”

“And we’re still full steam ahead on trying to get our legislation passed,” he said on ABC.

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