Rep. Will Hurd via Facebook
Two congressmen, one Chevy Impala, and thousands of Facebook viewers.
When South Texas Congressmen Beto O'Rourke (D) and Will Hurd (R) met in San Antonio Monday to hear from local veterans, they didn't know it was the kickoff to a 1,600-mile trek across the United States.
But Wednesday morning, 24 hours after learning their flights to D.C. were cancelled due to stormy weather, the two lawmakers are blazing across Tennessee in a rental car on a unexpected "bipartisan road trip." Their goal? To make it back to Congress in time for a Wednesday evening vote.
And thousands of people are watching.
To make the most of their time stuck behind the wheel, Hurd and O'Rourke decided to livestream their entire trip
on Facebook — hosting what appears to be a Whataburger-fuled town hall on wheels.
“At a time where so many people wonder whether our institutions still work, whether members of Congress still listen to the people they represent, whether a Democrat and a Republican can get along and work together, I thought let’s try to prove the concept,” O’Rourke told viewers Tuesday.
"We're trying to break through partisan gridlock and get stuck in actual gridlock," Hurd added, when the duo hit traffic outside of Waco.
Those tuning in are encouraged to ask them questions — anything from their thoughts on climate change to Hurd's nickname from his days in the CIA ("Coffee Black"). While both politicians are fairly moderate, the livestream has featured a series of thoughtful debates between the two congressmen on issues like the Republican health care plan, Russia's involvement in the 2016 elections, gerrymandering and Middle East policy. In some cases, the two have reached quasi-agreement on partisan issues.
There's one thing the two congressmen (who both represent Texas borderlands) easily agree on: the border wall. “Building a wall from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security,” said Hurd.
For outside input, they've taken calls along the way from fellow members of Congress (including Hawaii Democrat Rep. Tulsi Gabbard), reporters, and family members. The input from their viewers, however, has proven the most insightful.
"If you look at my social media followers and Beto's, you're going to find people with pretty different beliefs, people that often argue online," said Hurd Wednesday morning. "Seeing them interact in our livestream comments in a positive, thought-provoking way has been wonderful. Inspiring."
Tuning in to the duo harmonizing to Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again" or scarfing down doughnuts at 11 p.m., it's easy to forget O'Rourke and Hurd are from opposites sides of a starkly divided Congress. Let's hope that doesn't change once they hit D.C.