Starting Wednesday at Florida International University, former U.S. Reps. David Jolly and Patrick Murphy will get to do something they were unable to do much of while in Congress: Hang out together as friends.
"When I was first elected, I realized right off the bat they separate the two parties," Murphy said. "They kind of put you in a corner.... You don't get time to spend with the other party. I thought that was kind of ridiculous."
At 2 p.m. Wednesday, Murphy, a Democrat, and Jolly, a Republican, will kick off a statewide tour of town-hall style events at college campuses, titled: "Why Gridlock Rules Washington and How We Can Solve the Crisis."
They had planned to get started last month at the University of South Florida in Tampa. But Hurricane Irma changed their plans.
"It's not a tour of lament," Jolly said. "But it is pulling the curtain back. It is hopefully addressing some of the anger of the American people: 'We can't understand why Congress can't get anything done.'"
The tour is not intended to relaunch the two centrists into political life, insist both men, who lost their respective elections last November: Jolly, of Belleair Bluffs, to Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, and Murphy, of Jupiter, to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
"What we're saying, it probably doesn't help either one of us," Murphy said. Jolly guffawed in agreement.
They intend to speak openly about the political fundraising time-suck, endless campaigning and naked partisanship that keeps lawmakers from working together because party leaders tell them to avoid joining efforts with vulnerable politicians targeted for defeat in the next election cycle.
A tour blaming their parties for some of Congress' dysfunction will certainly win Jolly and Murphy some news coverage. Neither is expected to be done with politics: Jolly has become a cable news mainstay since leaving office, and Murphy, who is working on his family's expanding Coastal Construction business, is a Georgetown University fellow teaching a weekly class on millennials in politics.
"We may have lost our seats," Jolly said, "but we haven't lost our voices."
Jolly and Murphy will appear at 2 p.m. Wednesday at FIU's main campus, in room 243 of the Graham center. More events are scheduled for Oct. 12 at USF, Oct. 16 at Georgetown in Washington, Oct. 17 at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, and Oct. 18 at the University of Miami.