March 14, 2017
With flights canceled up and down the eastern seaboard Tuesday, two Texas members of Congress went all Thelma and Louise across the state — the start of a cross-country road trip so they could cast votes at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
U.S. Reps. Will Hurd of Helotes, a Republican, and Beto O’Rourke of El Paso, a Democrat, faced weather-related flight cancelations, so they opted for a 24-hour drive across Texas and beyond.
“Will and I wanted to beat the blizzard of 2017, so we jumped in a Chevy Impala in San Antonio,” O’Rourke said. “We’re driving across the country.”
The pair decided to livestream what will be 1,600 miles of banter and heavy policy discussions that so far have covered veterans’ services, Medicaid, immigration and frustrations with the partisan apparatus in Washington.
They spent Tuesday morning traveling up Interstate 35, with a plan to turn east at Dallas.
Here is what we’ve learned:
Hurd’s CIA handle: By far the coolest detail surfaced amid a conversation about preferred morning caffeine. Hurd prefers lattes, while O’Rourke takes his coffee black. And that was when Hurd revealed his handle while serving as an undercover CIA agent overseas: “Coffee Black.”
They know good Mexican food: The day began with breakfast at Mi Tierra, a downtown San Antonio Mexican food restaurant. It is also a favorite of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
They’re doppelgangers: Noting his 23rd district runs up into the outskirts of O’Rourke’s hometown, Hurd said he is frequently mistaken for his Democratic friend. “I’ve been confused for Beto O’Rourke many times in El Paso and in Washington, D.C.,” Hurd said.
O’Rourke knows how to use the internet: O’Rourke mostly coordinates the livestream through his various accounts while Hurd fields media interviews, including a live phone interview with MSNBC. Last year, O’Rourke was the main point man who live streamed the House Democratic takeover of the chamber floor.
They have stellar taste in music: Johnny Cash, John Denver and Willie Nelson made their road trip playlist.
The force is with them: When asked from an online watcher, “Star Wars or Star Trek?” both men indicated their preference was with the Jedi. O’Rourke was careful, however, to show some geographic loyalty to his fellow El Pasoan, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.
Neither man is happy with U.S. Rep. Steve King: Over the weekend, the Iowa Republican tweeted critical comments about foreigners and their children. O’Rourke called for a rebuke from the U.S. House of Representatives if King does not apologize. Hurd described the contributions of immigrants and said tone of King’s comments are “unhelpful” and “mean.”
They are both potential statewide candidates…at least someday: During a stop on the University of Texas campus to see NBC’s Chuck Todd, the Meet the Press anchor asked both men when they might run statewide. Hurd demurred. “I think the connection is getting bad,” Hurd joked. “I’m focused on the 23rd district about getting re-elected there, and doing the work of those people.”
O’Rourke, however, said his Senate intentions will soon be clear: “I’m really close to making an announcement.”
He is all but certain to run for U.S. Senate, but is still relatively unknown both in Washington and Texas. He will need to raise his profile if he is to make headway in what his would be an uphill climb against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2017/03/14/top-things-we-learned-congressional-roadtrip/.
The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.