This week, while millions of his constituents in Texas suffered under conditions that some have likened to Hurricane Katrina, Sen. Ted Cruz decided to fly to Cancun with his family for a vacation.
After pictures appeared on social media Wednesday night showing Cruz at the airport and on the flight to Mexico, the senator confirmed that he had indeed left the U.S., claiming that he was merely accompanying his daughters on a last-minute trip. But sources familiar with the situation say that the family trip was planned in advance, according to The New York Times.
“With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends,” claimed Cruz in a statement. “Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon.”
Though Cruz seems to imply that the trip was spontaneous and resulted from schools being closed for the week after the state was hit by a severe winter storm, the Associated Press reported Thursday morning that the trip was “long-planned.” The outlet later edited the story when Cruz issued a statement.
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Flight records dug up on Thursday appear to confirm that Cruz’s trip might have deviated from what was originally planned after he faced waves of criticism. Punchbowl News founder Jake Sherman found a flight record reportedly showing Cruz on standby for a flight back to Texas on Thursday morning.
Airline reporter Edward Russell said on Twitter that he confirmed this with a source at United Airlines, who said that the senator booked the flight back on Thursday morning at 6 am, and that he was originally booked to return on Saturday. The Senate is scheduled to reconvene on Monday.
Residents in Cruz’s state have been facing unprecedented conditions this week as power outages that have affected millions, some for many days, have led to crisis upon crisis. At least 7 million are now facing boil-water advisories and food shortages appear to be cropping up as grocery store shelves lie empty due to supply chain issues.
Many were outraged by Cruz fleeing the country while a disaster unfolded in his state — and for some, the decision compounded on the fact that many say he was a crucial player in the attack on the Capitol on January 6.
The state Democratic party issued a statement on Thursday calling on Cruz to resign. “This is what we’ve come to expect from Texas Republican leadership,” the Democrats wrote. “They are self-serving, inept, corrupt politicians who think that being in office entitles them to do whatever they want.”
In the statement, the Texas Democrats also pointed out the many ways that Cruz could be serving his state instead of flying to Mexico, including using the vacation money to pay for hotels for suffering families, helping to deliver hot meals as a Texas state representative was doing, or liaising with local governments and companies to help provide more resources for the residents of his state.
Former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro who served as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development under former President Barack Obama echoed the sentiments of the Texas Democrats, saying that Cruz should be working to serve his constituents during this crisis.
“In crises like these, members of Congress play a critical role connecting their constituents to emergency services and assistance,” tweeted Castro. “[Ted Cruz] should be on the phone with federal agencies, not on a trip to Mexico.”
Many have pointed out that on top of everything else, the senator’s trip was in the middle of a deadly pandemic that has made traveling, especially to other countries, a health risk. In December, Cruz had criticized a Democratic mayor for traveling to Mexico during the pandemic. “Hypocrites. Complete and utter hypocrites,” he wrote then.
Cruz’s approval ratings had already dropped in January after the attack on the Capitol for which former President Donald Trump was impeached. His favorability took a hit among both parties and by three points overall — falling from 48 to 45 percent, according to Morning Consult. Meanwhile, disapproval of the senator was up six points, the pollster found.