Hurd on the Hill: The Bipartisan Road Trip

March 19, 2017
Hurd on the Hill: Local Columns
'We can disagree without being disagreeable'

It all started with a cancelled flight due to inclement weather. Thirty-six hours and more than 1,600 miles later, Congressman Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat from El Paso, and I, a Republican from San Antonio, had driven in a Chevy Impala across the country to Washington, DC. Thanks to technology, we livestreamed our Bipartisan Road Trip via Facebook, answering questions in real-time from the public, the entire way.

We refused to let a bit of snow keep us from doing our jobs. We were determined to get back in time for votes we had to take in Congress. We also thought the road trip could demonstrate that a Republican and a Democrat can listen to each other and find common ground. After a few pit stops for Whataburger, donuts, and a couple hours of sleep, we made it to the United States Capitol with thirty minutes to spare.

During our trek, we took turns answering questions via Facebook Live about everything from healthcare and national security to music and dessert. It was what we liked to describe as the “longest rolling bipartisan town hall meeting in history”. We learned that we could disagree without being disagreeable and that instead of focusing on what divides us, there were many things that united us.

The support we received from the general public was overwhelming. While on the road, dozens of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle called us to show their support of increased bipartisanship. From Republicans like Senator John Cornyn and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, to Democratic Representatives Joe Kennedy and Henry Cuellar, we received call after call encouraging the bipartisanship to continue once we arrived in Washington, DC.  It proved that despite our nation’s political divisiveness, America wants us to get past our ideological differences and solve problems together.

As a result of the road trip, Beto and I co-sponsored each other’s bills that we had discussed along Interstates 35, 20 and 81. I co-sponsored his bill that helps immigrant families who are U.S. citizens remain together and he co-sponsored my bill that incentivizes local police departments to hire American veterans.

One of the things I heard loud and clear from constituents over the 30-hour mobile town hall, was something that I had been hearing over the last year as I crisscrossed my district – the replacement of Obamacare needs to help people who were previously uninsurable and to strengthen protections for those most vulnerable, particularly the aged and disabled on Medicaid. Over the past few days, I’ve been encouraging the Republican Leadership in the House of Representatives to make changes to the existing replacement bill, before our vote this week. I have asked:

  • For Medicaid expansion and non-expansion states to be treated equally;
  • For doctors who take care of Medicaid patients to receive the support they need so that they don’t opt-out of treating Medicaid patients all together; and,
  • To extend and expand programs like the Medicaid 1115 Waiver.

Bipartisanship is a real thing and there are plenty of opportunities for us to come together for the benefit of our constituents and the nation. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich told us that the trip would change us—and he was right.