Senator Ted Cruz has flown to Mexico on holiday while his state of Texas freezes through a deadly winter storm that has seen millions left without power or drinkable water.
Photos of the high-profile senator emerged on social media showing him at Houston airport and then on a flight to Cancun.
His decision to escape the state has sparked outrage during a catastrophic storm which has claimed at least 37 lives.
The state – which has been plagued by thick snow and plummeting, record-low temperatures – has experienced major infrastructure failure with power grids across Texas overwhelmed, triggering widespread outages.
While anger brewed online following the emergence of the damning images, Cruz's office remained silent until he eventually confirmed he had left the state, saying he had done so in the interests of his family and daughters who had wanted a holiday.
— howardfineman (@howardfineman) February 18, 2021
Just confirmed @SenTedCruz and his family flew to Cancun tonight for a few days at a resort they've visited before. Cruz seems to believe there isn't much for him to do in Texas for the millions of fellow Texans who remain without electricity/water and are literally freezing. pic.twitter.com/6nPiVWtdxe
— David Shuster (@DavidShuster) February 18, 2021
“Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon,” he said after his trip was widely covered by the US press.
“My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas.
“We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm.”
Democrats and Republicans in Texas, and beyond were quick to jump on Cruz's behaviour.
“That’s something that he has to answer to his constituents about,” state Republican Party Chairman Allen West said when asked whether Cruz’s travel was appropriate while Texans were 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.”
Democrat Texas state House member Chris Turner called Cruz's behaviour "unbelievable".
"Just when I think Ted Cruz couldn't disappoint Texans more, he finds a new way to do it," he said.
Cruz is weighing up a second presidential run in 2024 and is a key ally of former president Donald Trump. The two-term senator’s current term expires in early 2025.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Texas woke up Thursday (local time) to a fourth day without power.
Texas officials ordered seven million people — one-quarter of the population of the nation’s second-largest state — to boil tap water before drinking the water after days of record low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and froze pipes.
In Austin, some hospitals faced a loss in water pressure and, in some cases, heat.
Cruz’s office declined to answer specific questions about the family vacation, but his staff reached out to the Houston Police Department on Wednesday afternoon to say the senator would be arriving at the airport, according to department spokeswoman Jodi Silva.
She said officers “monitored his movements” while Cruz was at the airport.
Flight lists obtained by Punchbowl News show Cruz was attempting to fly back on Thursday after just one night in Mexico. It is unclear if that was always his intention or he had planned to stay longer.
The list shows Cruz on a stand-by list for an upgrade to business class.
"There is nothing worse than not getting upgraded to first class from coach on your way back from Cancun while your constituents are freezing to death," The New York Times columnist Tim O'Brien wrote on Twitter.
He was later pictured in the airport prior to his return flight, again prompting scathing comments, many questioning the size of his luggage for an overnight trip.
If you were just going to drop off your daughter, why the giant suitcase of clothes? And don’t you need to wait 72 hours to confirm a negative COVID test result before you fly back? pic.twitter.com/8Po8OBMxtU
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) February 18, 2021
Cruz's trip compared to ScoMo's Hawaii holiday
His move is strikingly similar to when Prime Minister Scott Morrison left Australia to holiday in Hawaii during the devastating bushfires at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020.
Mr Morrison cut his holiday short, apologising to any Australian he had offended. Thirty-four people died during the fires that ripped through large parts of the nation's southeast.
Late Thursday and into Friday morning, Twitter users were quick to compare the two politicians, with many accusing Cruz of "pulling a Scomo".
"Ted Cruz and Scomo apparently got the same handbook about what to do as a politician in an environmental emergency," one person wrote.
"Cruz is trying very hard to out ScoMo ScoMo," another said.
"When their people need them the most they go on holiday," one person said.
Ted Cruz and Scomo apparently got the same handbook about what to do as a politician in an environmental emergency.
— Jill T (@SK3L370R) February 18, 2021
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