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Obama Says He'd Agree to Millionaires Tax

Lesley Clark and Steven Thomma

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett smiles at the New York Stock Exchange before ringing the opening bell on September 30, 2011 in New York City. U.S. President Barack Obama's new plan for a higher tax rate for millionaires has been dubbed the "Buffett Rule" in reference to the billionaire investor, who supports the plan. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama said Thursday that he would agree to a surtax on millionaires instead of other tax increases to finance his proposed jobs bill, as his fellow Democrats in the Senate suggest.

"The approach that the Senate is taking I'm comfortable with," he said during a news conference in the East Room of the White House. "I'm fine with the approach they're taking."

However, Obama added that he wants more than the $447 billion in revenue needed to pay for the jobs bill, suggesting that he would still want other tax increases as he's proposed to help reduce long-term budget deficits.

The president called the hastily arranged news conference as the Senate nears a vote next week on his proposed American Jobs Act. Senate Democrats don't have enough votes to pass the bill.

Senate Democrats on Wednesday proposed a 5 percent surtax on taxable income above $1 million as a way to finance the bill, hoping that would be easier to sell to wavering Democrats and some Republicans.

The surtax, which would start in 2013, would replace Obama's proposed tax increases on annual incomes above $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for families.

In the Senate, 60 votes are needed to cut off extended debate and bring the bill to a final vote. Democrats control 53 of the 100 seats.

Responding to questions Thursday, the president said he would be willing to talk with Republicans about the bill and how to pay for it. "The bottom line is this: Our doors are open," Obama said.

But he said he had tried to bargain with congressional Republicans for more than two years without success.

"I have gone out of my way in every instance, sometimes at my own political peril ... to work with Republicans," he said.

"Each time, what we've seen is games playing, a preference to try to score political points ... on the part of the other side."

He said he would continue to travel around the country to rally support for the bill and put pressure on its opponents.

"The reason I keep going around the country talking about this jobs bill is because people really need help right now. The economy needs a jolt right now," he said.

"If we don't act, the opposite will be true: There will be fewer jobs; there will be weaker growth. Any senator who's thinking about voting against ... needs to explain exactly why."

If he can't win congressional approval of the entire bill, he said, he would break it up and ask for votes on each section, such as a proposed extension and expansion of a one-year cut in the payroll tax, or spending for public works.

"We will put forward maybe piece by piece each component of the bill," he said.

On other matters:

-He said he had "complete confidence" in Attorney General Eric Holder.

Holder is under fire for telling Congress that until recently he hadn't known about the "Fast and Furious" firearms sting, in which federal agents stood by as illegal guns wound up in the hands of Mexican drug dealers. But CBS reported that Holder knew about the program last year.

Obama said he hadn't known about the program and that Holder said he didn't know about it either.

-The president defended the overall policy of helping alternative energy companies, despite his administration's role in controversial loan guarantees for Solyndra, a solar energy that went bankrupt.

"If it was a risk-free proposition, then we wouldn't have to worry," he said of loan guarantees. "The overall portfolio has been successful."

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