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Sen. Joe Manchin. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) has privately warned the White House and congressional leaders that he has specific policy concerns with President Biden's $3.5 trillion social spending dream — and he'll support as little as $1 trillion of it.

  • At most, he's open to supporting $1.5 trillion, sources familiar with the discussions say.

Why it matters: In a 50-50 Senate, that could mean the ceiling for Biden's "Build Back Better" agenda — and that many progressive priorities, from universal preschool to free community college, are in danger of dying this Congress.

  • Manchin also has committed to paying for any new spending with new revenue, which will limit the ultimate size of any final package.
  • This amount would be on top of a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal passed by the Senate and awaiting House action.

Between the lines: Underlying Manchin’s concerns with Democrats' $3.5 trillion budget proposal, which originated in Sen. Bernie Sanders' budget committee, are deep and substantive differences over the size and scope of specific programs.

  • Manchin has voiced concerns about Biden’s plan to spend $400 billion for home caregivers.
  • He's also talking about means testing on other key proposals, including extending the enhanced Child Tax Credit, which provides up to an additional $300 per child per month, free community college, universal preschool and child care tax credits.
  • And he’s skeptical that so-called dynamic scoring — which Democrats embraced as a way to offset some costs of hard infrastructure spending — can be applied to “human” or “soft” infrastructure proposals.
  • For years, Republicans have relied on dynamic scoring to argue that tax cuts can pay for themselves in the long run, by growing the economy and therefore increasing revenues.

The big picture: House and Senate committees have until Sept. 15 to write specific legislation on how to spend up to $3.5 trillion — while also finding $1.5 trillion in new revenue from corporations and the wealthiest Americans — to enact Biden’s agenda.

  • Manchin threw cold water on the process last week with a Wall Street Journal op-ed, where he argued for a "strategic pause," citing inflation and the need to preserve some fiscal headspace to respond to COVID-19, if the virus continues to rampage.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised House centrists a vote on the separate $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package by Sept. 27.
  • Biden, speaking at the White House Tuesday evening, said, "Joe at the end has always been there."
  • "He's always been with me. I think we can work something out. I look forward to speaking with him."

Flashback: During the negotiations for the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, Manchin helped force Biden into lowering the amount of unemployment assistance and into raising the income limits on who would receive $1,400 direct payment checks.

What we're hearing: The White House still appears optimistic that a deal can be reached.

  • Manchin was careful in his WSJ piece not to close the door to future negotiations.
  • "Sanders wanted a large number and Manchin wants a smaller number and we’re going to work this process to try to reach common ground," said one source familiar with the White House's thinking. "There is a wide spectrum of opinions in the Democratic caucuses, and plenty of negotiation will take place. But we will continue to get this done, finding common ground."

Editor's note: This post has been updated to include comments from President Biden.

Go deeper

Not enough votes for corporate tax hike, Biden says

President Biden speaks at the Electric City Trolley Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Photo: Hannah Beier/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Democrats don't have the votes to raise corporate taxes, President Biden admitted at Thursday's CNN town hall in Baltimore, Maryland, where he went into detail on the state of negotiations concerning the massive reconciliation bill.

Why it matters: Democrats are still negotiating what will go into the bill. Divisions within the party have stalled the legislation for weeks.

The biggest headline from Biden's town hall

President Biden greets attendees during a commercial break in Baltimore last night. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

What matters from President Biden's town hall with CNN's Anderson Cooper at Baltimore Center Stage on Thursday:

The biggest headline: Biden is jettisoning the corporate tax increases that White House officials have insisted, for the past 10 months, are wildly popular across the country. He admitted he doesn't have the votes.

Biden: Jan. 6 Capitol riot "was about white supremacy"

President Biden speaks during the 10th anniversary celebration of the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial with Vice President Harris in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 21. Photo: Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden said Thursday that white supremacy motivated rioters who carried out the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Driving the news: "The violent, deadly insurrection on the Capitol nine months ago, it was about white supremacy, in my opinion," Biden said at an event commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington.