Editor's Note: The following editorial first appeared in a sister newspaper, the Mankato (Minn.) Free Press
Congress is back in session, carrying with it a sense of gloom.
While there are several issues a majority of Americans want addressed, GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is showing little interest in doing anything except blocking any legislation passed by the House and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
For his part, President Trump has offered little interest in promoting a legislative agenda.
Awaiting action is approval of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal, one thing Trump does want Congress to act on. Democrats have been working with the administration to try and get changes to the agreement that address labor standards in Mexico, environmental protections and ensures that the agreement can be enforced.
Hopefully there can be an agreement so the trade deal can be passed, which would help bring some benefit to Midwest farmers and others who have been hurt by America’s withdrawal from NAFTA and the trade war with China.
But movement on other important legislation looks bleaker.
Congress has to fund the government or risk a federal shutdown. Those talks have been derailed by Trump’s shifting of $3.6 billion from military projects for the border wall.
Imposing more election security before next fall’s elections should be a top priority after the Mueller report detailed the extent of Russian interference in 2016.
But hovering above all the other issues is gun regulation, with a majority of Americans supporting certain changes in the law to address gun violence. McConnell has recently said he would allow debate on gun bills but only after he gets direction from the president on what he would support. While Trump initially said he supported some legislation he more recently has backpedaled after talking with the head of the National Rifle Association.
McConnell and his GOP caucus have abandoned their duty to provide legislative leadership, instead leaving any decisions on an agenda with Trump. While presidents have always and understandably held great sway in setting legislative goals for their party, Congressional leaders have still forwarded bills they believe are necessary and wanted by the people who elected them.
Hopefully the Senate will find the strength to deliver meaningful bills before recessing.