DALLAS (NewsNation Now) — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said Thursday that his family trip to the Mexican resort city of Cancun during a deadly winter storm was “obviously a mistake” as he returned to Texas amid a flurry of criticism.
After his travels were first reported as hundreds of thousands of Texans remained without power or safe drinking water, the 50-year-old Republican lawmaker prepared to board a flight home while his Senate office issued a statement saying he was continuing to work for his constituents.
As he returned stateside, Cruz told reporters he began second-guessing the trip since the moment he first got on the plane Wednesday. “In hindsight, I wouldn’t have done it,” he told reporters.
The high-profile Republican, a potential White House candidate in 2024, said in a statement that he had accompanied his family after his daughters asked to go on a trip with friends.
“With school canceled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends,” Cruz said in the statement.
“Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon. My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas,” Cruz said. “We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm.”
Cruz told reporters Thursday night that he returned to the U.S. because he realized he needed to be in Texas.
“I didn’t want all the screaming and yelling about this trip to distract even one moment from the real issues that I think Texans care about, which is keeping all of our families safe,” Cruz said.
“It was obviously a mistake, and in hindsight, I wouldn’t have done it,” he said.
Cruz faced calls for his resignation from Democrats after photos emerged on social media showing him in an airport line, in a passenger lounge, aboard an airliner and departing an airport in Mexico.
“Resign,” the Texas Democratic Party tweeted.
“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 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.”
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki, speaking before Cruz was spotted at Cancun International Airport, said tongue-in-cheek: “I don’t have any updates on the exact location of Senator Ted Cruz, nor does anyone at the White House.”
Hundreds of thousands of people in Texas woke up Thursday to a fourth day without power, and a water crisis was unfolding after winter storms wreaked havoc on the state’s power grid and utilities.
In his statement, Cruz said that his family had lost heat and power as well.
“This has been an infuriating week for Texans,” he said.
Texas officials ordered 7 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. 13 million had disruption to their water service.
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.
Silva could not say whether such requests are typical for Cruz’s travel or whether his staff made a similar request for his return flight.
U.S. Capitol Police officials and the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms have encouraged lawmakers and their staff to be conscious of potential threats and to consider advising law enforcement about their travel at airports and other transportation hubs.
Cruz’s office did not immediately say whether the senator would self-quarantine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people who have traveled to get a coronavirus test three to five days after their return and to quarantine for a full week, regardless of the test results.
Cruz has been demonized by the left even before he ran for president in 2016. In more recent years, he has positioned himself as a Trump loyalist with an eye toward a potential second White House bid.
The Texas senator championed the-then president’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.
“Ted Cruz had already proven to be an enemy to our democracy by inciting an insurrection. Now, he is proving to be an enemy to our state by abandoning us in our greatest time of need,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said Thursday. “For the 21st time, the Texas Democratic Party calls on Ted Cruz to resign or be expelled from office.”
Cruz’s office dismissed calls for his resignation earlier in the month.
“The left – and some grifters on the right – are consumed by partisan anger and rage,” his office said in a written statement. “Sen. Cruz will continue to work for 29 million Texans in the Senate.”
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.
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.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report. All reporting by Reuters’ David Morgan and Susan Heavey and the AP’s Steve Peoples and Jake Bleiberg