Texas Sen. Ted Cruz faced widespread condemnation on Thursday for taking a tropical vacation with his family in Mexico while his home state was paralyzed by a deadly winter storm that left many without power or safe drinking water.
As criticism of the trip increased, Cruz returned to Texas, saying it was “obviously a mistake.”
Cruz is already one of the most malicious Republicans in Congress, having created opponents across the political spectrum in a career defined by right-wing politics and struggling with establishment. Most recently, he appeared as a leader in former President Donald Trump’s press to cancel the results of the November election. Billboards demanding his resignation stood along Texas highways earlier this month.
On Thursday, Cruz was knocked by everyone from the president of the Republican Party in Texas to the rope. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive fireplace.
The question is whether the damage will have a lasting impact on Cruz’s political prospects. Narrowly re-elected to the Senate in 2018, he will not face voters in Texas again until 2024. He is also seen as a likely candidate for the GOP’s presidential candidate that year.
Cruz moved quickly on Thursday to try to limit the self-inflicted injury.
He issued a statement earlier in the day acknowledging an “outrageous week for the Texans.” He said he accompanied his family to Cancun, Mexico, on Wednesday after his daughters asked to travel with friends, given that school was canceled for the week.
“I wanted to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and will be flying back this afternoon,” Cruz wrote.
“My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what was happening in Texas,” he continued. “We want our electricity back, our water on and our homes warm.”
When he returned to a state later on Thursday where hundreds of thousands of residents were still struggling with the fallout from a storm that paralyzed the power grid, he was more direct about the mistake.
“In retrospect,” he said, “I should not have done it.”
Even the president of the state Republican Party refused to come to Cruz’s defense on Thursday.
“This is something he needs to answer to his constituents about,” Texas GOP President Allen West said when asked if Cruz’s trip was appropriate while the Texans are without power and water.
“I try to take care of my family and take care of my friends and others who are still without power,” West said. “That’s my focus.”
Hundreds of thousands of people in Texas woke up on Thursday to a fourth day without electricity, and a water crisis unfolded after winter storms that caused chaos on the state’s electricity grid and electricity.
Texas officials ordered 7 million people – a quarter of the nation’s second largest state – to boil tap water before drinking the water, after days of record-breaking temperatures that damaged infrastructure and frozen pipes.
In Austin, some hospitals experienced a loss of water pressure and in some cases heat.
‘We are freezing to death’
News of Cruz’s absence quickly rippled across the state.
Livia Trevino, a 24-year-old whose Austin home was still without water on Thursday, said she felt abandoned by government leaders.
“They are taking holidays and leaving the country, so they do not have to deal with this, and we are freezing to death. We have no water and we have no food, she said.
Democrats across Washington were eager to talk about the controversy.
One of Cruz’s most aggressive critics on the left, Ocasio-Cortez, on Thursday encouraged his supporters to volunteer for a “welfare check phone bank” to help Texans affected by the storm.
“So many elected leaders in Texas have failed with their constituents,” the New York Democrat wrote in an email. “Instead of focusing on relief, they have chosen to go to Fox News to spread lies or board a plane to Cancun.”
Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki leaned in on a question about Cruz “where he was.”
“I have no updates on the exact location of Senator Ted Cruz or anyone in the White House,” Psaki said, adding that President Joe Biden’s administration is focused on “working directly with leadership in Texas and surrounding states to address the winter storm and the crisis at hand. ”
Cruz staff reached out to the Houston Police Department on Wednesday afternoon to say the senator would arrive at the airport, according to Department spokesman Jodi Silva. She said officers “monitored his movements” while Cruz was at the airport.
Silva could not say whether such requests were typical of Cruz’s voyages or whether his staff had made a similar request for his return flight.
U.S. Capitol Police officers and Senate firearms have encouraged lawmakers and their staff to be aware of potential threats and to consider law enforcement advice on their trips to airports and other transportation hubs.
Cruz’s office did not immediately say if the senator would quarantine himself. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who have traveled during the pandemic receive a coronavirus test three to five days after return and quarantine for an entire week, regardless of test results.