Mr. Cruz has long rankled members of both parties as a self-promoter since his arrival on Capitol Hill in 2013. Later that year, he became the leading actor in the drama that forced a government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act, and in 2016, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, famously joked during a speech, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.”
But if Mr. Cruz annoyed his colleagues, he just as quickly won over the Tea Party wing of the G.O.P. He ran as an anti-establishment champion in the party’s 2016 presidential primary and finished as the runner-up to Mr. Trump, brandishing his colleagues’ disdain as a badge of honor.
Representative Lizzie Fletcher, a Democrat who represents Mr. Cruz’s Houston neighborhood in Congress, said on Thursday that the state was facing an “all-hands-on-deck situation” and that its leaders were needed to help marshal the federal response on the ground.
Ms. Fletcher was out of power herself until Wednesday and charged her phone in her car to continue to make calls to the House speaker, FEMA and other agencies — too busy, she said, to think about Mr. Cruz’s “decision to leave the state at this time.”
“Leadership matters,” she said.
Mr. Cruz had been acutely aware of the possible crisis in advance. In a radio interview on Monday, he said the state could see up to 100 deaths this week. “So don’t risk it,” he said. “Keep your family safe and just stay home and hug your kids.”
Mr. Cruz had attacked a Democrat, Mayor Stephen Adler of Austin, in December for taking a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, while telling constituents to “stay home” during the pandemic.
“Hypocrites,” Mr. Cruz wrote on Twitter. “Complete and utter hypocrites.”