A few weeks ago, it looked like Andrew Cuomo was on track to break a New York curse and get through a third term. But now, embroiled in a Covid scandal, his political future looks less certain.
“Can or will anyone go for the week?” Heidi Cruz asked, noting that hotels were open and sharing the family’s flight schedule.
Cruz’s Senate counterpart John Cornyn has directed Texans to resources like shelters and grocery banks – and even re-tweeted a user who wrote a subtle contrast to Cruz: “Now, @ JohnCornyn’s Twitter feed is full of helpful news and resources for Texas. “
While no one denied that Cruz’s trips were politically risky, some Cruz allies, like Donald Trump Jr., defended him by suggesting that senators have little power when it comes to “localized disasters”.
However, lawmakers usually seek to show their faces when their constituents are grappling with natural disasters or other tragedies – not just to demonstrate their commitment to voters, but also to guide the response and recovery effort. Senators in particular play a crucial role as they help to coordinate the work between the federal, state and local governments and at the same time mobilize their powerful service arms.
However, Cruz has previously stumbled in weather-related emergencies. When Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast in 2012, it turned down an aid package to help those states rebuild and blew it up as a “Christmas tree” full of unnecessary expenses. But when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in 2017, Cruz ran an emergency expense bill on charges to help his state and Questions asked by other legislators – as well as the then GOP governor Chris Christie from New Jersey – about the apparent double standard.
Texas in particular has been searching for federal government resources after the storms that severely damaged the state’s infrastructure and power grids.
In a previous statement, Cruz said he and his staff are “in constant communication with state and local leaders to investigate events in Texas.”
Cruz’s office apparently planned the trip in advance. A Houston Police Department spokesman confirmed that a Cruz official contacted the department on Wednesday afternoon asking law enforcement for “assistance with Sen. Cruz’s arrival” at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.
The Senate is on a scheduled hiatus this week, with many senators back to work in their home states. Meanwhile, winter storms have hit cities across Texas all week, leaving millions of residents unable to heat their homes or buy groceries. Cruz urged the Texans during a radio interview Monday “Just stay at home” as the winter weather was a burden on the state.
His political opponents rushed to use the Cancun flight against him.
“Cruz is a symbol of what the Republican Party of Texas and its leaders have become: weak, corrupt, incompetent and selfish politicians who don’t care about the people they were elected for,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, Democratic leader Texas Party said in a statement. “They were elected by the people, but have no interest or no intention of doing their job.”
A liberal group began fundraising to put up an electronic billboard on Cruz’s house that read, “Texans Froze. Ted Fled. “
Cruz is already facing a Democratic-requested investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee into his efforts to object to electoral college certification on Jan. 6 when a violent mob stormed the Capitol to prevent lawmakers from confirming Biden’s victory.
Even after the uprising, Cruz held on to his objection to certification, including when some of his Republicans resigned. Top Republicans, including Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, hailed the effort as a dangerous attempt to overthrow the will of voters.
While Cruz described his trip to Cancun as a request from his children, at least one other parent at their school raised concerns about the escape and, according to a person familiar with the matter, inquired whether Cruz’s family would be quarantined upon their return to the United States would have to be.
“As with any other school family, they must be adequately quarantined when they return, right?” One parent wrote on Facebook.
Beto O’Rourke, Democrat Cruz who was defeated in the Texas Senate race in 2018, tweeted that he spent Wednesday night on phone banking to check in with seniors. O’Rourke also used his Twitter account to direct Texans to shelters and food banks.
The Texan network operators said Thursday morning that they had started restoring electricity to most customers, but for nearly a week up to 4 million residents of the Lone Star state lived without electric lights, or in many cases with electric heat at temperatures close to zero.
Images of frost in living quarters and food on porches soon appeared on social media to keep them from spoiling while refrigerators were out of power as residents tried to stay warm during the days of blackout. As of Wednesday night, 7 million Texans were under boiling water orders as water utilities operating on a reduced power supply struggled to keep up with demand.
Eric Wolff and Natasha Korecki contributed to this report.