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In our opinion: Congress, where’s the urgency to tackle these issues before 2020?

Time is quickly running out, but the American people deserve action on a number of pressing issues.

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From left, Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, whose district contains El Paso, Texas, where a gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., call for a Senate vote on the House-passed Bipartisan Background Checks Act as Congress returns for the fall session with pressure mounting on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to address gun violence, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Sept. 9.

AP

With weekends, holidays and days off to attend to matters in their home districts, members of Congress now have less than 60 working days to get things done before the end of the year.

The 2019 calendar is important. Once 2020 hits, election season will begin to take precedence over day-to-day work, and movement on controversial issues that require debate and compromise will become more difficult for most of the year.

Unfortunately, time is quickly running out, but the American people deserve action on a number of pressing issues.

Foremost among these is legislation for American safety. A month ago, we urged the Senate to cancel its recess and begin the work of crafting legislation that would broaden background checks for gun purchases or find other ways to guard against an epidemic of mass shootings. The House already has passed a version of such a bill. Meanwhile, four high-profile mass shootings in August brought support for such legislation to the forefront. But Senate President Mitch McConnell declined to bring the Senate into session.

Now, the Senate seems ready to perhaps discuss bills related to mental health and firearms, violent video games or giving federal support to states that enact so-called “red flag” laws to take action against people whose behavior indicates they may be a threat to society or themselves.

The House and Senate may be miles apart on this issue, but a sincere deliberation process might lead to some sort of compromise legislation that attacks the root cause of these crimes. We’ll never know unless leaders of the House and Senate begin the process and make it a priority.

Perhaps of more immediate concern is the need for a budget compromise. The federal government will shut down on Sept. 30 unless Congress passes 12 spending bills. Again, the House is well along on this process, while the Senate has yet to begin. 

We hesitate to note that this is likely to result in a continuing resolution, essentially continuing current levels of funding without decided difficult matters. That would be better than a shutdown, but it wouldn’t be a solution. 

Frankly, there is no time for anything except working on the pressing issues we have outlined — in other words, doing the job lawmakers were elected to do. 

Neither party seems interested in curbing spending these days. However, a thorough debate on the future of entitlements and discretionary spending, with a goal of at least tamping down deficit spending, would be in the nation’s best interests.

Congress also needs to debate and vote on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement, which would replace NAFTA and allow businesses in the three neighboring nations to trade with confidence. This, too, should be a priority, and the chances of it happening are likely to diminish significantly in the new year.

Congress also should debate the Equality Act, which seeks to protect the rights of LGTBQ Americans. Senate conservatives should insist on including protections for religious liberty in this bill, ensuring that the rights of all citizens are protected.

Clearly, Congress has no time to dither. Unfolding events around the world inevitably will serve to distract them, as will Democratic calls to begin impeachment hearings against the president.

Frankly, there is no time for anything except working on the pressing issues we have outlined — in other words, doing the job lawmakers were elected to do. 

Americans send their representatives to Washington to perform important duties that safeguard the nation and allow for commerce and other daily activities to continue in an atmosphere of certainty and confidence. They should watch carefully to make sure those representatives do their jobs before the end of the year.