Obama and German Chancellor Merkel meet to discuss climate change, Afghanistan

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, fresh from being sworn in for her second term, met with President Obama at the White House this morning to discuss global warming and Afghanistan before she heads to Congress where she will be the first German leader to address a joint session.

“I am thrilled to have Chancellor Merkel here today,” Obama said this morning. “I want to congratulate her again for her victory in her recent election, the formation of a government.”

Merkel visit comes as American voters head to the polls to decide a handful of important off-year elections. Obama campaigned for Democratic candidates in governors’ races in Virginia and New Jersey and in an upstate New York congressional district. Polls show that Democrats are trailing in two races and locked in a tight race in New Jersey.

“Chancellor Merkel has been an extraordinary leader on the issue of climate change,” Obama said this morning. “And the United States, Germany, and countries around the world, I think, are all beginning to recognize why it is so important that we work in common in order to stem the potential catastrophe that could result if we continue to see global warming continuing unabated.”

But Obama has had problems with the issue in Congress, which is focused on healthcare reform. A Senate committee today met to start discussion of a bill, sponsored by Democrats Barbara Boxer of California and John Kerry of Massachusetts, but most Republicans boycotted the session. The bill would place a cap on greenhouse gas production in the U.S. and would create a market for companies to buy and sell pollution credits.

The cap-and-trade legislation is not expected until next year.

In her speech to Congress, Merkel said she would thank the American people for their help reunify East and West Germany after the Cold war ended.

“I wanted to use this opportunity today also to express our gratitude, my gratitude, to the American people for the support that the American people have given us throughout the process leading up to German reunification, and I think it’s something that I would like to later on say it very clearly also in my speech to both houses of Congress,” Merkel said this morning.

“And let me tell you that this is something that we, the Germans, shall never forget.”