The midterm elections have come and gone, and the people have spoken. The race thought likely to favor the Republican Party resulted in nothing short of a decisive victory as the GOP captured the Senate and held the House.

Voters frustrated with political gridlock, a government shutdown and an economy that continues to sputter voiced their disapproval at the polls, leaving President Barack Obama facing his final two years in office with a Congress for the first time entirely controlled by the opposing party. Whether or not the Republican-majority Congress will be able to make any strides in furthering their agendas, especially on issues of particular concern to Catholics, remains to be seen as we enter an even more charged political season in the run-up to the 2016 election. This editorial board encourages action on the following issues:

Whether or not Congress will be able to make any strides, especially on issues of particular concern to Catholics, remains to be seen

Right-to-life: Politicians who ran on pro-life positions must look for ways to advance the pro-life cause now that they are in office. Pro-lifers have a right to expect action, not just election-year rhetoric. The two most hopeful signs for Catholics are the pro-life majority now controlling the Senate and rising young star Elise Stefanik, a young pro-life conservative from Albany, New York. She along with Mormon Utah congresswoman Mia Love could be the winning combination to put the so-called war on women to rest once and for all.

We particularly hope that Congress can take steps on freedom of conscience legislation in the face of intrusive government actions forcing religious organizations to act against their beliefs (such as the HHS mandate).

Immigration: Congress must begin a productive discussion on comprehensive immigration reform immediately. A particular priority is the thousands of unaccompanied immigrant minors who have crossed the border from Central America and Mexico into the United States in search of a better life. While this number has slowed in recent months, the problem of more than 12 million undocumented men, women and children remains. Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez and other bishops have issued eloquent appeals for immigration reform. Now is the time to act.

Poverty: Americans remain divided about what steps the government must take to ensure the protection of and advocacy for the poor. The Census Bureau reported in September that the poverty rate in the United States had dropped from the previous year — the first time such a significant decrease had taken place since 2006. But 45.3 million people remain in poverty. Poverty has a significant impact on family stability, crime rates, school attendance and more. Popular votes suggest wide support for a decent minimum wage, but support for families and schools is also critical for helping families rise out of poverty.

Of course, this is easier said than done. As the country heads full steam into the next congressional term, the presidential campaign of 2016 is looming. We may have less than one year before the temptation to political grandstanding and interest group pandering overwhelms any political will to act on the great needs facing the country.

After the wearisome political gridlock of the last four years, we urge both the president and Congress to seek out areas of compromise and agreement when possible, and to engage in a civil debate when not. It is the least the voters should be able to expect of their leaders.

Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor