When a winter storm threatened their travel plans, two Texas Congressman embarked on a buddy trip for the ages.
Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat from El Paso, and Will Hurd, a Republican from San Antonio, had their flights from Texas to Washington DC cancelled due to heavy snow in the capital.
The two men, who did not know one another well, decided to share a car and make the 30-hour drive.
They livestreamed much of the trip on Periscope and Facebook Live.
O’Rourke called it “the longest bi-national congressional live town hall in the history of the United States”.
They used the time to interact with their constituents and share their views on hot button political issues, from immigration (both men live along the US-Mexico border) to the terrorist threat posed by the so-called Islamic State (Hurd is a former CIA analyst.)
It wasn’t all high-level policy debates. The men sang along to Willie Nelson, The Clash and Buddy Holly, and made several stops for coffee, burritos and donuts.
Votes in DC were scheduled for 630pm Wednesday night. The men left San Antonio at 7am on Tuesday and stopped in Nashville at 3am the next morning, after a day spent on the road and on camera.
“The last couple hours were tough,” O’Rourke told the audience.
“You stuck with us, kept us company, suggested songs for the playlist, gave us some good questions. Settled the pie v cake dispute,” he said, referring to a battle of dessert supremacy that ignited a lively debate.
While travelling, they received phone calls from current and former members of congress, including House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Wisconsin Congresswoman Gwen Moore, and retired Majority leaders Bill Frist and Tom Daschle.
The current elected officials who called in were asked to talk about a programme they were working on in Congress – and who they would choose as a bipartisan road-trip buddy.
“Joe Kennedy would be a good one – he’d have some good Kennedy family history and is a great guy,” said Republican Randy Webber.
Though O’Rourke and Hurd both oppose President Trump’s plan to build a wall along the Texas-Mexico border, they differ on several key issues.
“Beto likes to get the tank down close to E before we fill up,” Hurd, who had a more conservative petrol policy, told viewers.
O’Rourke also prefers to drive without stopping, while Hurd favours more pit stops.
“Will wanted to stop at every school house along the way,” and engage the students, O’Rourke said, but school schedules and their tight timeline made such a request impossible.
“It would have been fun, man!” Hurd insisted.
The men were not above stunts to boost their ratings – or ease the monotony of the road.
“We’re at 600 live views,” O’Rourke said on Wednesday morning. “We peaked early at 750 when Will was doing 20 push-ups in the Pilot gas station parking lot in cowboy boots.”
As the day went on, viewership grew to as many as 4,000 viewers, helped by interviews the men gave to news programmes and shares on social media. They attracted comments from India, the UK and Philippines.
With three hours and thirty minutes left before votes in the House, their GPS showed them three hours away from Capitol Hill – but they would be driving through Washington during rush hour.
At 5:51pm local time, they arrived in front of the Capitol building, having reached their destination ahead of schedule and together.
“We always talk about the things that divide us, when we could be talking about the things that unite us,” Hurd said during the trip.
“Even if we do disagree, we don’t have to be disagreeable,”
Texas Congressmen livestream road trip to Washington