Like tens of millions of his constituents throughout Texas, Senator Ted Cruz had a frigid house with out electrical energy this week amid the state’s energy disaster. However in contrast to most, Mr. Cruz bought out, fleeing Houston and hopping a Wednesday afternoon flight to Cancún together with his household for a respite at a luxurious resort.
Photographs 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 house. The blowback solely intensified after Mr. Cruz, a Republican, launched an announcement saying he had flown to Mexico “to be a superb dad” and accompany his daughters and their mates; he famous he was flying again Thursday afternoon, although he didn’t disclose how lengthy he had initially meant to remain.
Textual content messages despatched from Ms. Cruz to mates and Houston neighbors on Wednesday revealed a rapidly deliberate journey. Their home was “FREEZING,” as Ms. Cruz put it — and she or he proposed a getaway till Sunday. Ms. Cruz invited others to hitch them on the Ritz-Carlton in Cancún, the place they’d stayed “many occasions,” noting the room value this week ($309 per evening) and its good safety. The textual content messages have been offered to The New York Occasions and confirmed by a second particular person on the thread, who declined to be recognized due to the non-public nature of the texts.
For greater than 12 hours after the airport departure images 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, tens of millions 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 turbines. Some searched neighborhoods for discarded fallen bushes to burn for heat.
“What’s taking place in Texas is unacceptable,” Mr. Cruz informed 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 through the 2016 major race, and #FledCruz, amongst them. Some Democratic teams sought to fund-raise off the episode, and the state Democratic Celebration renewed its requires Mr. Cruz’s resignation.
“That is about as callous as any politician can get,” mentioned Gilberto Hinojosa, the Texas Democratic Celebration chairman. Mr. Hinojosa mentioned he was shocked however not shocked by Mr. Cruz’s worldwide tour: “He’s a politician that actually has by no means cared a lot about anyone however himself.”
If Mr. Cruz meant to go away 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 mates,” Mr. Cruz mentioned of his daughters, who’re 10 and 12, in his assertion on Thursday. “Desirous to be a superb dad, I flew down with them final evening 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 not too long ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California eating and not using a masks through the pandemic final yr on the high-end restaurant the French Laundry.
Mr. Cruz’s resolution to go away 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 extensively seen as eager to run once more in 2024 or past.
“It was clearly an error in judgment,” mentioned Ray Sullivan, an Austin-based Republican strategist who served as chief of workers to former Gov. Rick Perry. Whereas a senator can not personally restore the ability grid, Mr. Sullivan mentioned, “folks count on their elected officers to be absolutely engaged throughout a disaster.”
Mr. Cruz, 50, narrowly gained re-election in 2018 in opposition to Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic former congressman, carrying lower than 51 p.c 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 workers contacted personnel with the Houston Police Division at George Bush Intercontinental Airport forward of his flight requesting “help upon arrival,” in response to Jodi Silva, a division spokeswoman.
Ms. Silva mentioned 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 workers had been “in fixed communication” with state and native leaders throughout his transient Cancún journey.
“This has been an infuriating week for Texans,” he mentioned.
In his assertion, Mr. Cruz famous that the non-public 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 faculty insurance policies which have discouraged such journey overseas.
Two mother and father offered a replica 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 take a look at three to 5 days after returning, which might preserve the Cruz youngsters out of faculty for the next week. (Individually, an aide to Mr. Cruz mentioned he had taken a virus take a look at earlier than his return flight on Thursday; the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention requires a destructive outcome.)
When Ms. Cruz wrote to the group textual content chain of neighbors attempting to climate the acute circumstances early Wednesday, she mentioned the household had been staying with mates to maintain heat, however shortly pivoted to providing an invite to get away.
“Anybody can or need to go away for the week?” she wrote. “We could go to Cancún.” She teased a “direct flight” and “motels 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 supply. “We have now fuel range so at the very least we will warmth water little that there’s completely satisfied to assist anybody we will too,” she wrote.
The Occasions 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, “For those who killed Ted Cruz on the ground of the Senate, and the trial was within the Senate, no person would convict you.”
But when Mr. Cruz irritated his colleagues, he simply as shortly gained over the Tea Celebration wing of the G.O.P. He ran as an anti-establishment champion within the social gathering’s 2016 presidential major 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, mentioned on Thursday that the state was going through 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 mentioned, to consider Mr. Cruz’s “resolution to go away the state right now.”
“Management issues,” she mentioned.
Mr. Cruz had been conscious about the doable disaster upfront. In a radio interview on Monday, he mentioned the state might see as much as 100 deaths this week. “So don’t threat it,” he mentioned. “Preserve your loved ones secure and simply keep house 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 house” through the pandemic.
“Hypocrites,” Mr. Cruz wrote on Twitter. “Complete and utter hypocrites.”