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Cruz tries to repair public image after Cancún trip

Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, talked to reporters during the Senate Impeachment trial for former president Donald Trump on Feb. 11, 2021.
Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, talked to reporters during the Senate Impeachment trial for former president Donald Trump on Feb. 11, 2021.Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

Already in hot water after a trip to Cancún, Mexico, amid a statewide emergency, Sen. Ted Cruz seems to be trying to chill disapproval.

In what appeared to others to be a bid to rehab his image, Cruz, R-Texas, posted photos of himself on Saturday passing out pallets of water bottles to Texans struggling without clean water. On Sunday, he expressed outrage about skyrocketing utility bills, calling for regulatory action. But Cruz's tweets in the wake of his trip have further fanned the flames of criticism, putting him under criticism for his response to the winter storms that devastated his state.

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In photos Cruz posted of himself with the caption #TexasStrong, he is wearing a face mask with the Texas flag on it and distributing water bottles to people, shaking a maskless woman's hand in one picture. He appeared to be in Harris County, posting more photos the next day in close contact with first responders, serving them barbecue. Immediately after his initial posts, responses flooded in, condemning Cruz for disregarding federal guidance, which not only advises against traveling to Mexico because of the number of coronavirus cases there but also recommends that travelers stay home for seven days once they've returned to reduce the spread of the virus.

"You should be quarantining right now," the Lincoln Project, group of Republicans who oppose former president Donald Trump, commented in response to Cruz's photos.

People who traveled from Mexico should also get tested for the coronavirus three to five days after their trip, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cruz flew back to Texas from Cancún on Thursday after outrage about his tropical travels boiled over. Cruz's office did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post.

On Sunday, Cruz shared a Dallas Morning News article about people facing skyrocketing electric bills, which were widely blamed on the state's unregulated, independent power grid.

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"This is WRONG," he wrote. "No power company should get a windfall because of a natural disaster, and Texans shouldn't get hammered by ridiculous rate increases for last week's energy debacle. State and local regulators should act swiftly to prevent this injustice."

Critics quickly seized on Cruz's comments, pointing out the contrast between his past defense of private companies over governance.

"Success of TX energy is no accident: it was built over many years on principles of free enterprise & low regulation w more jobs & opportunities as the constant goal," he wrote in a 2019 tweet that resurfaced after his Sunday post. "We work to export this recipe for success to more & more states so that all Americans enjoy the same prosperity."

"When you think of regulated monopolies, regulated public utilities, what are the adjectives that come to mind? They're not bold, innovative . . ." he said in 2014.

“Pleased to see a Republican Senator call for governmental regulation of the market,” Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., tweeted in response. “We’ve learned time and time again that industry in many cases is unable to regulate itself.”