Senator Ted Cruz returned to Houston on Thursday after flying to Cancun, Mexico, with his family, calling the decision to leave his state during a crisis a "mistake." The Republican senator was widely criticized for taking his family on vacation as Texas struggled with a winter storm that left millions without power and access to clean water.
Speaking to reporters late Thursday, Cruz expressed regret at his decision but said he was trying to balance his duties as a lawmaker and being a good father. He said his two daughters had asked to go on the trip after school was canceled.
"It was obviously a mistake and in hindsight, I wouldn't have done it," Cruz said. "It had been my intention to be able to work remotely," he said, "but I needed to be here — and that's why I came back. As it became a bigger firestorm, it became more compelling that I needed to come back."
Photos of Cruz arriving at the airport emerged on social media late Wednesday, sparking fierce criticism of the senator. While power has since been restored to millions of Texans, nearly half of the state lacks access to clean, running water.
Earlier Thursday, Cruz said he flew out with his family because he wanted to be a "good dad." His statement only said that he planned to return home on Thursday.
The Republican senator was scheduled to fly home Saturday but changed his reservation this morning, an airline industry source familiar with the situation told CBS News. His wife and children will return Saturday as planned, the source said.
A member of Cruz's staff contacted the Houston Police Department on Wednesday, requesting assistance upon the senator's arrival at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Chief Art Acevedo told CBS News. Officers monitored Cruz's movements throughout the terminal.
As of Thursday evening, at least 34 deaths were attributed to the storm, 20 of the victims were from Texas. More than 350,000 residents were still without power.
Some of Cruz's political opponents have called on him to resign.
"Ted Cruz jetting off to Mexico while Texans remain dying in the cold isn't surprising but it is deeply disturbing and disappointing," said Gilberto Hinojosa, the chairman of the Texas Democratic Party. "We are in a battle for the soul of our state. We must restore ethics, competence, and a government that works for the people."
Alan He contributed to this report.