While Texans struggle to keep warm amid power outages caused by historic winter weather, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was spotted Wednesday boarding a plane for Cancun with members of his family.
Photographs from multiple sources appeared to show Cruz in a mask standing in the boarding area for a United flight at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, and then on the plane itself holding a passport.
In a statement issued early Thursday afternoon, the senator admitted to traveling for pleasure.
“Like millions of Texans, our family lost heat and power, too,” Cruz said. Because his daughters’ school was canceled due to the weather, Cruz and his wife, Heidi, decided to allow them 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,” the senator said. Given the ongoing threat of the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against nonessential travel to most areas of the world, including Mexico.
Cruz assured constituents that he and members of his staff are “in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas.”
Multipleoutlets and reporters said earlier Thursday that Cruz’s destination was Cancun. A passenger identified as “CRU, R.” was also spotted on the list of people waiting to upgrade seats for the United flight to Cancun. (The senator’s full name is Raphael Edward Cruz.)
On Thursday morning, “CRU, R.” was spotted on a list of passengers awaiting the same upgrade on a flight from Cancun back to Houston.
He was later seen making his way through the airport amid a flurry of cameras.
Internet sleuths pointed to a long list of consistencies between the images purportedly taken on the plane to Cancun and images of the senator, including a matching face mask, glasses, luggage, shoes and a ring.
The day Cruz left, nearly 3 million Texas households were still without power, although the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s grid operator, says it has now restored power to many of them.
Images posted to social media show the aftermath of pipes bursting in the extreme cold, flooding homes and businesses that are not well-equipped for it.
As freezing temperatures persist, authorities have been warning people that improvised heating with gas can have deadly consequences.
Earlier this week, a woman and girl died in Houston from carbon monoxide poisoning after sitting in a running car parked in a garage while trying to keep warm. Similar incidents have sent people to the hospital, and a grandmother and three children died in a house fire while their neighborhood was without power. Others in Texas have frozen to death outdoors.
Cruz was well-aware of the danger to his constituents and even advised them not to go out.
“If you can stay home, don’t go out on the roads. Don’t risk the ice,” he said in a radio interview on Monday. “We could see up to 100 people lose their lives this week in Texas, so don’t risk it. Keep your family safe. Just stay home and hug your kids.”
Cruz has vacationed at the resort town in the past ― but not while people across his home state scramble for potable water and food during a pandemic that has already strapped state resources. Temperatures plunged to below zero across Texas all week, and more winter weather is currently threatening the South.
The Texas Democratic Party is now once again calling on the senator to resign.
“Ted Cruz jetting off to Mexico while Texans remain dying in the cold isn’t surprising, but it is deeply disturbing and disappointing,” party chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement on Thursday. “Cruz is emblematic of what the Texas Republican Party and its leaders have become: weak, corrupt, inept and self-serving politicians who don’t give a damn about the people they were elected to represent. They were elected by the people but have no interest or intent of doing their jobs.”
In a brief update on the statewide situation Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) did not say when all Texans could expect to see power restored. The situation has put hospitals on edge as dwindling reserves of potable water has forced doctors to transfer patients, according to the Texas Tribune.
Experts say that Texas ― which runs largely on fossil fuels ― never winterized much of its power-generating equipment, failing to plan for extreme weather that is increasingly more common due to climate change.
Unlike most states, Texas is powered almost entirely by its own power grid. The rest of the continental United States is powered by massive East Coast and West Coast grids that are subject to federal oversight.