Winter weather has also shut down Texas energy producers and halted ship traffic out of Houston’s seaport.
US Senator Ted Cruz faced widespread criticism on social media on Thursday after reports surfaced that he flew to a resort in Cancun, Mexico, while his home state of Texas struggled through a deadly deep freeze.
As the criticism snowballed Thursday, Cruz confirmed the travel in a statement saying, “With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon.”
#BREAKING: Ted Cruz has issued a statement confirming his flight to Cancun.
"With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon."
— William Joy (@WilliamJoy) February 18, 2021
Prior to Cruz’s statement, the Associated Press news agency reported Cruz went on the trip with his family for the long-planned trip to Cancun and was expected to return immediately, citing a source with direct knowledge of the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The Houston Police Department confirmed Cruz’s presence at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston on Wednesday, according to USA Today.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said in a statement “HPD officers monitored his movements through the terminal” after his staff asked for their assistance.
Cruz checked in for his return flight Thursday afternoon in Cancun and walked briskly through the terminal pulling a roller bag to security. He wore a golf shirt, jeans and a face mask in the style of the Texas state flag.
The senator was accompanied by a Spanish-speaking man wearing a black polo shirt with the name and logo of The Ritz-Carlton hotel chain.
Cruz told reporters that he planned to “go home and keep working to get the grid reopened, to get power restored, to get the water back on.”
“A lot of Texans are hurting and this crisis is frustrating. It’s frustrating for millions of Texans. It shouldn’t happen,” he said.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Texas woke up on Thursday to a fourth day without power and heat, as a water crisis was unfolding after winter storms wreaked havoc on the state’s power grid and utilities.
Texas officials ordered seven million people – one-quarter of the population of the nation’s second-largest state – to boil tap water before drinking it, after days of record low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and froze pipes.
The order caused some on social media to question how this is possible, given the lack of power and water.
And yes, it is a terrible reality that people are being asked to boil water they do not have with power they do not have. https://t.co/l6GVuxrzZQ
— Tony Plohetski (@tplohetski) February 18, 2021
In Austin, some hospitals faced a loss in water pressure and in some cases, heat.
The winter weather has been responsible for at least 24 deaths across the US.
Cruz was a leading Republican voice even before he ran for president in 2016. In more recent years, he has positioned himself as a key ally of former President Donald Trump with an eye towards a potential second White House bid in 2024.
The Texas senator, who once described Trump as a “pathological liar,” championed Trump’s call to block the certification last month of Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory.
That stand led to calls for Cruz’s resignation after a violent mob stormed the Capitol as Congress was affirming Biden’s win.
Cruz’s office dismissed the criticism.
“The left – and some grifters on the right – are consumed by partisan anger and rage,” his office said in a written statement earlier in the month. “Sen. Cruz will continue to work for 29 million Texans in the Senate.”
Cruz previously faced a challenge for his seat from Democrat Beto O’Rourke in 2018. Cruz beat O’Rourke 50.9 to 48.3 percent. It was the closest Texas Senate race since 1978, a surprising result for the deeply Republican state.
The chairman of the Texas state Republican Party declined to come to Cruz’s defense on Thursday.
“That’s something that he has to answer to his constituents about,” chairman Allen West said, according to the Associated Press, when asked whether Cruz’s travel was appropriate while Texans are without power and water.
“I’m here trying to take care of my family and look after my friends and others that are still without power,” West said. “That’s my focus.”
The controversy over the storm quickly became fodder for the nascent 2022 election battle for congressional seats in Texas, though Cruz will not be up for re-election until 2024.
“Texas, you deserve so much better! Upgrade your representation starting in ’22!” Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison tweeted.