Time for some major white elephant hunting

How would you like to be a member of the U.S. Congress today?

You know your national image is shot, and the voting public is getting antsy – antsy enough, perhaps, to vote you out of office in 2014. You know every decision you make, every vote you take, will be analyzed and critiqued even more than usual. Probably criticized, too.

But members of the current Congress have a chance in the next couple of weeks to do themselves a favor. They can, with a little compromise, a little give and take, begin to chip away at the public’s negativity toward them. There will always be arrows to dodge, but members of Congress have a window of opportunity now to fix some of the things that are clearly broken.

First, Congress must do something about lowering interest rates on student loans. By not progressing on this issue with a stop-gap extension last week, subsidized Stafford loans doubled July 1. Democrats want to buy themselves some time to solve the issue, but Republicans don’t like the idea of an extension. It’s their job to find room for compromise. The Senate’s latest effort Wednesday failed, as lawmakers couldn’t come up with the votes they needed to pass a one-year measure, leaving interest rates at 6.8 percent.

By not doing something about the rising cost of sending a child to college, both Republicans and Democrats have, for now, further sullied their reputation in the eyes of millions of young voters.

Then there’s the farm bill, another white elephant making its way around our Capitol.

House leaders, after failing to pass its version of the farm bill in June, have come up with a new strategy: splitting it into two pieces, one for farm programs, the other for food stamps.

We give them credit for thinking outside the box, and while farm and nutrition groups aren’t totally on board with the plan, House members can’t let that knock them off track.

Indeed, the plan carries some risks, but at least on this issue, the House has proven it’s trying. And with this Congress, we should consider that a step in the right direction, however small a step it might seem.