Like hundreds of thousands of his constituents throughout Texas, Senator Ted Cruz had a frigid dwelling with out electrical energy this week amid the state’s energy disaster. However not like most, Mr. Cruz acquired out, fleeing Houston and hopping a Wednesday afternoon flight to Cancún together with his household for a respite at a luxurious resort.
Images of Mr. Cruz and his spouse, Heidi, boarding the flight ricocheted shortly throughout social media and left each his political allies and rivals aghast at a tropical journey as a catastrophe unfolded at dwelling. The blowback solely intensified after Mr. Cruz, a Republican, launched an announcement saying he had flown to Mexico “to be dad” and accompany his daughters and their associates; he famous he was flying again Thursday afternoon, although he didn’t disclose how lengthy he had initially supposed to remain.
Textual content messages despatched from Ms. Cruz to associates and Houston neighbors on Wednesday revealed a rapidly deliberate journey. Their home was “FREEZING,” as Ms. Cruz put it — and he or she proposed a getaway till Sunday. Ms. Cruz invited others to affix them on the Ritz-Carlton in Cancún, the place they’d stayed “many occasions,” noting the room worth this week ($309 per night time) and its good safety. The textual content messages have been offered to The New York Instances and confirmed by a second particular person on the thread, who declined to be recognized due to the personal nature of the texts.
For greater than 12 hours after the airport departure photographs first emerged, Mr. Cruz’s workplace declined to touch upon his whereabouts. The Houston police confirmed that the senator’s workplace had sought their help for his airport journey on Wednesday, and ultimately Mr. Cruz was noticed wheeling his suitcase in Mexico on Thursday as he returned to the state he represents within the Senate.
Because the Cruzes have been away, hundreds of thousands of Texans have been nonetheless with out electrical energy, many had no working water and the icy air that swept into the state was so extreme that the Federal Emergency Administration Company had been activated to ship provides, together with mills. Some searched neighborhoods for discarded fallen trees to burn for heat.
“What’s taking place in Texas is unacceptable,” Mr. Cruz advised a television crew on the Cancún airport. He was carrying a Texas state flag masks and a short-sleeved polo shirt tucked into his denims; the temperature in Cancún was above 80 levels Fahrenheit on Thursday, and within the 30s in Houston.
Mr. Cruz’s critics shortly circulated hashtags mocking his journey: #FlyinTed, a play on former President Donald J. Trump’s derisive nickname for Mr. Cruz throughout the 2016 main race, and #FledCruz, amongst them. Some Democratic teams sought to fund-raise off the episode, and the state Democratic Occasion renewed its requires Mr. Cruz’s resignation.
“That is about as callous as any politician can get,” stated Gilberto Hinojosa, the Texas Democratic Occasion chairman. Mr. Hinojosa stated he was shocked however not stunned by Mr. Cruz’s worldwide tour: “He’s a politician that basically has by no means cared a lot about anyone however himself.”
If Mr. Cruz supposed to depart the impression that he meant to remain for less than a day, his giant suitcase and the group textual content messages Ms. Cruz had despatched planning an extended itinerary urged he had lower his journey quick. NBC reported individually that Mr. Cruz had rebooked his return ticket on Thursday morning.
“With faculty canceled for the week, our women requested to make a journey with associates,” Mr. Cruz stated of his daughters, who’re 10 and 12, in his assertion on Thursday. “Desirous to be dad, I flew down with them final night time and am flying again this afternoon.”
Premature holidays and opulent splurges have lengthy ensnared politicians in scandals and public-relations complications: the worldwide journeys organized by the disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff within the early 2000s for members of Congress; Chris Christie, then the governor of New Jersey, sitting on a state seashore in 2017 after he had ordered such seashores closed due to a authorities shutdown; and, extra lately, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California dining without a mask throughout the pandemic final yr on the high-end restaurant the French Laundry.
Mr. Cruz’s choice to depart his state in the midst of an emergency was an particularly confounding one for an bold politician who has already run for president as soon as and is broadly seen as desirous to run once more in 2024 or past.
“It was clearly an error in judgment,” stated Ray Sullivan, an Austin-based Republican strategist who served as chief of employees to former Gov. Rick Perry. Whereas a senator can not personally restore the ability grid, Mr. Sullivan stated, “folks count on their elected officers to be totally engaged throughout a disaster.”
Mr. Cruz, 50, narrowly gained re-election in 2018 in opposition to Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic former congressman, carrying less than 51 percent of the vote. In that race, Mr. Cruz had aggressively highlighted his efforts throughout a previous emergency, Hurricane Harvey. He’s not up for re-election till 2024.
Whereas town of Houston was gripped by the freezing climate on Wednesday, a member of Mr. Cruz’s employees contacted personnel with the Houston Police Division at George Bush Intercontinental Airport forward of his flight requesting “help upon arrival,” based on Jodi Silva, a division spokeswoman.
Ms. Silva stated the police had “monitored his actions” earlier than he departed. Officers were seen accompanying him upon his Thursday return.
Mr. Cruz insisted in his assertion on Thursday that he and his employees had been “in fixed communication” with state and native leaders throughout his transient Cancún journey.
“This has been an infuriating week for Texans,” he stated.
In his assertion, Mr. Cruz famous that the personal faculty his daughters attend in Houston was closed this week. However another mother and father on the faculty have been incensed after they heard about his worldwide journey due to the pandemic and college insurance policies which have discouraged such journey overseas.
Two mother and father offered a duplicate of the written faculty coverage for college kids to not return to lecture rooms for seven days after worldwide journey, or to take a Covid check three to 5 days after returning, which might preserve the Cruz kids out of faculty for the next week. (Individually, an aide to Mr. Cruz stated he had taken a virus check earlier than his return flight on Thursday; the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention requires a unfavorable consequence.)
When Ms. Cruz wrote to the group textual content chain of neighbors attempting to climate the intense situations early Wednesday, she stated the household had been staying with associates to maintain heat, however shortly pivoted to providing an invite to get away.
“Anybody can or wish to depart for the week?” she wrote. “We might go to Cancún.” She teased a “direct flight” and “inns w capability. Critically.” Ms. Cruz promptly shared particulars for a Wednesday afternoon departure, a Sunday return journey and an opulent keep on the oceanfront Ritz-Carlton within the meantime.
Nobody appeared to chew, however Ms. Cruz did prolong a extra sensible provide. “We now have fuel range so not less than we are able to warmth water little that there’s joyful to assist anybody we are able to too,” she wrote.
The Instances shared the contents of the messages with Mr. Cruz’s Senate workplace, however his aides didn’t remark. Ms. Cruz didn’t return a name looking for remark.
Mr. Cruz has lengthy rankled members of each events as a self-promoter since his arrival on Capitol Hill in 2013. Later that yr, he turned the main actor within the drama that compelled a authorities shutdown over the Inexpensive Care Act, and in 2016, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, famously joked throughout a speech, “When you killed Ted Cruz on the ground of the Senate, and the trial was within the Senate, no one would convict you.”
But when Mr. Cruz aggravated his colleagues, he simply as shortly gained over the Tea Occasion wing of the G.O.P. He ran as an anti-establishment champion within the get together’s 2016 presidential main and completed because the runner-up to Mr. Trump, brandishing his colleagues’ disdain as a badge of honor.
Consultant Lizzie Fletcher, a Democrat who represents Mr. Cruz’s Houston neighborhood in Congress, stated on Thursday that the state was dealing with an “all-hands-on-deck state of affairs” and that its leaders have been wanted to assist marshal the federal response on the bottom.
Ms. Fletcher was out of energy herself till Wednesday and charged her cellphone in her automobile to proceed to make calls to the Home speaker, FEMA and different businesses — too busy, she stated, to consider Mr. Cruz’s “choice to depart the state presently.”
“Management issues,” she stated.
Mr. Cruz had been aware of the doable disaster prematurely. In a radio interview on Monday, he stated the state might see as much as 100 deaths this week. “So don’t threat it,” he stated. “Hold your loved ones secure and simply keep dwelling and hug your children.”
Mr. Cruz had attacked a Democrat, Mayor Stephen Adler of Austin, in December for taking a visit to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, whereas telling constituents to “keep dwelling” throughout the pandemic.
“Hypocrites,” Mr. Cruz wrote on Twitter. “Complete and utter hypocrites.”