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Schwarzenegger: White House invitation trumped special election

WASHINGTON -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger skipped out on California's special election Tuesday, but he had an excuse.

"When the president asks you to come and to be part of a celebration and to sign an agreement, you do it, especially when you feel so passionate about the subject," the Republican governor told reporters Tuesday.

After voting absentee in an election that will go a long way in determining the state's finances, Schwarzenegger flew to Washington to meet with President Barack Obama as he announced higher fuel-efficiency standards.

"I'm delighted to be here," said the governor, who congratulated the president on striking the deal.

And he made it clear that he believes his home state shares much of the credit.

"This has been a huge victory for the state of California," Schwarzenegger said. "And as the president said, that if it wouldn't have been for the great leadership of our great state, this would have never happened. We want to thank him for the great skills that he has displayed in bringing all the stakeholders together."

The governor called it a "staggering" accomplishment in the fight against global warming.

"This is exactly what it's all about, all of us working together, showing great leadership in reducing the consumption of oil, reducing our greenhouse gases and fighting together global warming," he said.

Schwarzenegger said previous presidents had talked about taking on global warming but had never acted.

"This president, after 120 days in office, has created the action and brought everyone together," Schwarzenegger said. "So we are ecstatic about this great progress."

Schwarzenegger called Tuesday a day to celebrate in Washington and said he'd be back in the state Wednesday morning to deal with the election results.

He said he looked forward to the outcome.

"You win or you lose," he said. "I think that we always know how to move forward and make the adjustment. You always respect the will of the people."

Schwarzenegger planned to meet with Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and members of the California House delegation Tuesday afternoon to discuss the state's fiscal crisis.

On Wednesday morning, he plans to meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius before heading back to California. The governor plans to ask Sebelius for special permission to make $750 million in cuts to the stat's Medi-Cal program.