Senator Cruz returns to Texas facing criticism after Cancun trip

Washington: Senator Ted Cruz returned to Texas after coming under harsh criticism for flying to Cancun, Mexico, with his family while the state he represents is dealing with widespread power outages in the wake of a historic winter storm.

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In a video of an exchange with reporters after his return, he said that the trip was “obviously a mistake. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have done it.”

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He added the impetus for the trip was because his children were cold. “I was trying to be a dad. And all of us have made decisions, when you’ve got two girls who’ve been cold for two days and haven’t had heat or power and they’re saying, ‘Hey look, we don’t have school, why don’t we go, let’s get out of here,’ I think there are a lot of parents that’d be like, all right, if I can do this, great.’”

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Cruz, in the video posted on Twitter by a Washington Post video editor, said he started second guessing his decision to leave Texas once he got on the plane.

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In a statement earlier in the day, he asserted that “my staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas.”

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Social media

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The statement came several hours after pictures of Cruz at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport circulated on social media, and after the Houston police confirmed that his staff had asked for the department’s help for his departure on Wednesday.

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“A member of his staff reached out to the police department asking for assistance yesterday regarding his arrival at Terminal A,” Houston Police spokeswoman Jodi Silva said.

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The trip triggered outrage and criticism from Democrats as about 500,000 homes and businesses in Texas remained without electricity Thursday morning after a severe winter storm pummeled the state for days. That’s down from more than 3 million on Wednesday.

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More than 7 million Texans are under orders to boil water after power failures robbed utilities of the ability to keep pumping, which allowed pressure to drop to levels at which bacteria could proliferate. The bitter cold burst pipes in houses built for 100-degree summers, and temperatures aren’t expected to get much above freezing until Saturday for most of the state.

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The Senate has been in recess since Saturday when Cruz was among those who voted to acquit former President Donald Trump of the impeachment charge of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

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Cruz has been an outspoken defender of the former president, even though the two clashed during the 2016 presidential campaign when they were both seeking the Republican nomination. Cruz, who would be up for re-election in 2024, is one of several GOP senators weighing a bid for the Republican presidential nomination that year.

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The Democratic Party of Texas called on Cruz to resign Thursday for leaving his constituents in the middle of a disaster.

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“Ted Cruz jetting off to Mexico while Texans remain dying in the cold isn’t surprising but it is deeply disturbing and disappointing,” state party chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement.

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Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who was Housing and Urban Development secretary in the Obama administration, said in a tweet that members of Congress “play a critical role connecting their constituents to emergency services and assistance. @tedcruz should be on the phone with federal agencies, not on a trip to Mexico.”

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Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, said “it’s certainly much warmer where he’s going,” when asked about Cruz’s travel during a media briefing on the city’s winter-storm response on Thursday.

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Cruz has been critical of Democratic leaders who haven’t followed their own guidelines to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In December he tweeted criticism of Austin Mayor Steve Adler for telling the city’s residents to stay home while he was on vacation.

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As part of the national response to the deadly winter storm, President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency in Texas and other states that have been affected.

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Ample supplies

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At the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration is focused on working with state officials in addressing the crisis “and we expect that would be the focus of anyone in the state or surrounding states, who was elected to represent them.”

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, said Wednesday he was restricting out-of-state sales of gas through Feb. 21 to ensure in-state power generators had ample supplies. Less than 24 hours later, Texas’s top energy regulator told gas producers to offer supplies for sale in-state before shipping it elsewhere, citing the governor’s mandate.

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“We will continue to exhaust all available methods to restore power for Texans and ensure that our communities can recover,” Abbott said.

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The White House said in a statement Thursday night that Biden and Abbott had spoken by telephone and the president “reiterated that the federal government will continue to work hand-in-hand with state and local authorities in Texas to bring relief and address the critical needs of the families affected.”

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