“As it became a bigger and bigger firestorm, it became all the more compelling that I needed to come back,” he added.
Mr. Cruz’s critics quickly circulated hashtags mocking his trip: #FlyinTed, a play on former President Donald J. Trump’s derisive nickname for Mr. Cruz during the 2016 primary race, and #FledCruz, among them. Some Democratic groups sought to fund-raise off the episode, and the state Democratic Party renewed its calls for Mr. Cruz’s resignation.
“This is about as callous as any politician can get,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, the Texas Democratic Party chairman. Mr. Hinojosa said he was shocked but not surprised by Mr. Cruz’s international excursion: “He’s a politician that really has never cared much about anybody but himself.”
Untimely vacations and opulent splurges have long ensnared politicians in scandals and public-relations headaches: the international trips arranged by the disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff in the early 2000s for members of Congress; Chris Christie, then the governor of New Jersey, sitting on a state beach in 2017 after he had ordered such beaches closed because of a government shutdown; and, more recently, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California dining without a mask during the pandemic last year at the high-end restaurant the French Laundry.
Mr. Cruz’s decision to leave his state in the middle of an emergency was an especially confounding one for an ambitious politician who has already run for president once and is widely seen as wanting to run again in 2024 or beyond.
“It was clearly an error in judgment,” said Ray Sullivan, an Austin-based Republican strategist who served as chief of staff to former Gov. Rick Perry. While a senator cannot personally restore the power grid, Mr. Sullivan said, “people expect their elected officials to be fully engaged during a crisis.”
Mr. Cruz, 50, narrowly won re-election in 2018 against Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic former congressman, carrying less than 51 percent of the vote. In that race, Mr. Cruz had aggressively highlighted his efforts during a past emergency, Hurricane Harvey. He is not up for re-election until 2024.