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Bipartisan 'Bromance' Blossoms As 2 Texas Congressmen Make D.C. Road Trip

It sounds like the beginning to a buddy comedy movie: Two congressmen, whose opposing parties couldn't be more at odds right now, are stranded after their flights were canceled because of a snowstorm. In order to make it back to Washington, D.C., in time for votes, they rent a car and begin making the roughly 1,600-mile trek.

That's exactly what Texas Reps. Beto O'Rourke, a Democrat, and Will Hurd, a Republican, have been doing for the past two days, allowing anyone to ride along with them in their rented Chevy Impala via Facebook video stream.

"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 Republican and a Democrat can get along and work together. I thought, let's try to prove the concept," O'Rourke told the Dallas Morning News about his somewhat spur-of-the moment suggestion. The two had been stranded after a veterans' roundtable discussion in San Antonio.

They weren't incredibly close at the outset of their long journey, but spending so long in a car, talking about everything from policy issues to their families to doughnuts, quickly helped bridge any awkward divides. By the end of their trip, the two were talking about having Thanksgiving together.

They approached the trip like a town hall on wheels, taking questions from people who were commenting on Facebook. And, of course, they were talking about one of the hottest issues of the day — health care.

"I think we came to some common ground," O'Rourke told NPR's Morning Edition. "We want to see more people afford health care, but I think we have some differences of opinions on expansion of Medicaid."

"I've learned a lot about Beto," Hurd mused about his neighboring colleague during one point in the trip. "We've learned that we can work together on a lot more issues than what we have been."

The whole drive turned into a radio show of sorts — a mix of them picking songs to play, ranging from Bruce Springsteen to Johnny Cash to Robert Earl Keen.

It also became a call-in show, as they would dial up fellow colleagues and began encouraging them to undertake their own bipartisan road trip with a member of the opposite party. The duo began asking people on Twitter for their thoughts on possible pairings with the hashtag #CongressionalCannonballRun.

Throughout their drive, they amassed quite a following on social media, drawing thousands of people watching at a time. When they swung by Memphis late Tuesday night to see Graceland (it was closed), they were enticed by some people who had been commenting on their feed to stop at Gibson's Donuts instead, where they held court with several patrons and the shop's staff.

As they picked back up on Wednesday after stopping to sleep for a few hours in Nashville, there was an Amazing Race-like urgency for them to get back to D.C. by the time votes were scheduled at 6:30 p.m. ET. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy promised them he would do whatever he could to hold votes open and would even reserve a parking space in front of the Capitol for them.

The two pulled in front of the Capitol steps just before 6 p.m., with about 30 minutes before votes to spare. Their staff and other onlookers had gathered, with one waving a Texas flag.

As they headed into D.C., O'Rourke began blasting "The Final Countdown" and even Hurd admitted he was already beginning to feel a bit of separation anxiety from his colleague and newfound friend as their trip approached its end.

"I learned something — this is a guy I can work with," O'Rourke told Fox 5 DC as they started to go into the Capitol. "It just happens that we're on opposite sides of the aisle."

Hurd reflected that at the outset of their trip, some of the comments weren't as encouraging about their unique undertaking. But by the end, they had plenty of people cheering them on and holding the two men up as examples of bipartisanship that is sorely needed in Washington.

"The fact that people enjoyed it and the fact that people really changed the kind of language they were using while they were commenting at us was pretty cool," the Texas Republican said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.
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