March 15, 2017
The road trip is over.
U.S. Reps. Will Hurd and Beto O’Rourke — a Republican and a Democrat from Texas, respectively — arrived at the U.S. Capitol just before 5 p.m. Wednesday, ending a two-day trek from San Antonio that captivated the country and brought more attention to the two congressmen than ever before.
After a snowstorm derailed their plans to fly back to Washington on Tuesday, the two rented a car and livestreamed the 1,600-mile drive, answering questions from commenters along the way. They billed it as the longest continuous bipartisan congressional town hall using the Facebook Live platform.
“We hit a lot of issues,” Hurd said as the two approached Washington, “The Final Countdown” playing in the car. “We came to some agreement. We learned about other issues we’re going to be able to work on.”
The two pulled into the Capitol parking lot ahead of schedule — they had aimed to be there by 5:30 for a series of votes. They were greeted by a man holding a Texas flag at the security gate and then a throng of reporters and staffers at the bottom of the Capitol steps.
“If I start being mean to him right now, it’s because of separation anxiety,” Hurd joked as the two emerged from their Chevy Impala, almost immediately seeking jackets to cope with the cooler northern weather.
“I should spend more time with my colleagues — I learned that from this trip,” O’Rourke told the crowd that had been waiting for him and Hurd. “This is a guy I can work with.”
The road trip exposed many from outside Texas to the two congressmen, who have kept relatively low profiles in the state’s delegation until recently. O’Rourke is close to announcing a challenge versus U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in 2018, and Hurd, whose district spans hundreds of miles along the U.S.-Mexico border, has emerged as one of his party’s most notable critics of President Donald Trump.
The trip also came at a time when members of Congress, particularly Republicans, are facing heightened scrutiny over their accessibility to constituents. Texas Democrats did not let Hurd off the hook for the trip, arguing it was not an excuse to not hold an in-person town hall back home.
Hurd and O’Rourke nonetheless received bipartisan support as they made their way to Washington, fielding calls from dozens of their colleagues in Congress, including Texans such as GOP U.S. John Cornyn and party leaders like House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Hurd and O’Rourke asked many of the callers which member of the opposing party they would choose to go on a road trip with — U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, was a popular choice among Republicans.
There were also lighter moments. They found common cause after their orders Tuesday at Whataburger were switched, with Hurd discovering he doesn’t mind onions and pickles on his burger after all.
When commenters weren’t asking questions, they peppered the two congressmen with travel advice. That brought them to Gibson’s Donuts late Tuesday night in Memphis, where they stopped before sleeping over in Nashville.
Among the final questions they got as the National Monument appeared on the horizon: Would one of them drive the Impala back home after this week?
“I’m going to pass on that one,” Hurd said.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2017/03/15/hurd-orourke-reach-washington-ending-road-trip-town-hall/.
The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.