In a fantastic two-day show of bipartisanship, Congressmen Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) and Will Hurd (R-TX), who represent congressional districts along the Texas-Mexico border, after a flight cancellation, chose to rent a mid-1990s Chevy Impala from a Dollar Rent A Car in San Antonio to make a 30-hour, 1,600-mile trek back to Washington, D.C. in time for votes in the House of Representatives while hosting a virtual and mobile Town Hall on Facebook Live through Rep. O’Rourke Facebook page.
They talked issues (their agreement in opposition to a border wall, Veterans Affairs, the Affordable Care Act and the House GOP replacement plan, Medicaid, Medicare, trade policy, bipartisanship in Congress, suicide prevention, the renaming of post offices, problems associated with the federal employee hiring freeze, O’Rourke’s American Families United Act, campaign finance transparency, mental health, their mutual disdain for Rep. Steve King’s recent comments, gerrymandering, etc.), spoke to an tripartisan array (including independent Senator Angus King) of Members of Congress, played an array of music (from a number of Texas iconic bands and singers like Willie Nelson and Selena, to Happy Birthday for O’Rourke’s sister Charlotte, to The Replacements, to Prince), spoke to reporters, took a selfie at Graceland with a group of tourists from Hurd’s San Antonio, and ate tacos and Whataburger in Texas and Gibson’s Donuts in Memphis on the trip.
This Facebook live stream has captured the attention of people across the nation. People loved the bipartisanship, the mutual respect they show for one another, their stories of some historical events that occurred in their congressional districts, their pet peeves of slow traffic in the left-hand lane, and even their more comical moments working together to navigate around traffic jams in Waco, Texas, and Tennessee and finding places to eat.
As Hurd said during the trip, “We have a lot more in common than we think. When we build these relationships, we find common understanding.”
O’Rourke talked about the need to have open dialogue and a focus on getting stuff done rather than playing party politics.
He also had the rather crazy idea — but actually kind of terrific — of having a Congressional Cannonball Run (it has its own hashtag, #CongressionalCannonballRun) where two Members of Congress would have to travel together on a bipartisan basis from Mi Terra Restaurant in San Antonio to Washington, D.C.
Congressional leadership should take some lessons from this. Our nation faces some enormous challenges: unacceptably high poverty rates, a crumbling infrastructure, cuts in education funding, federal budget deficits, a tax system calling for reform and fairness, a need to end gerrymandering to encourage the drawing of less partisan districts, Russian attempts to influence our elections, etc. and should have these discussions to solve America’s problems on a bipartisan basis.
Congressional leadership could start with health care. If Congress reach common ground on a mutual goal of working toward changes that would improve coverage, affordability, quality, and access to care, they would do back to the drawing board and hopefully find a solution that improves our health system rather than what the House of Representatives are currently considering.
As another example, at First Focus, we would urge them to consider creating a National Bipartisan Commission on Children to address an array of issues impacting America’s well-being, including health care, education, early childhood, child abuse and neglect, budget and tax policy, homelessness, poverty, juvenile justice, immigration, child safety, and child rights.
As both O’Rourke and Hurd said multiple times on the trip, as a nation, we should stop focusing on what “divides us”, as politicians like Rep. Steve King (R-IA) do far too often, and instead, spend some time — even if it has to happen in a Chevy Impala — focusing on what “unites us.”
I loved every minute of it. I also am grateful for the shout-out by Beto, who has been a Champion for Children in Congress. Thanks my friend and keep up the good work!
Updates on March 18th in tweets…