On Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against the federal government over COVID-19 vaccine mandates for Texas National Guard members. Tuesday afternoon, Paxton acknowledged that he was suing the Biden administration over the obligation.
“Neither the President nor federal military officials can order the Governor of Texas and non-federalized National Guardsmen to comply with a vaccination mandate or to direct a particular disciplinary action for failure to comply,” Paxton’s office said in a statement.
Abbott said in a letter to Major General Tracy Norris, the commander of the Texas Military Department, that the Biden administration as well as the US Department of Defense would “not tolerate” efforts to force members to present proof of coronavirus vaccine.
“I have issued a straightforward order to every member of the Texas National Guard within my chain of command: Do not punish any guardsman for choosing not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” Abbott said in the letter.
Until and unless President Joe Biden federalizes the Texas National Guard, the governor went on to explain that he is the chief commander of the state’s Guard members and thus will not be “commandeered into doing the federal government’s work.”
“Although my order has been in effect for months now, President Biden has muddied the waters with a vaccine mandate from the U.S. Department of Defense,” he said.
The President of the United States may deploy the Guard and thereby place representatives under federal authority under Title 10 of the United States Code. Abbott claims jurisdiction in his letter, claiming Title 32 of the United States Code, which states that the Guard is under state control unless called upon by the federal government. The Defense Department argues that because Guardsmen are financed by the federal government for their training and instruction, they must adhere to the federal mandate.
Austin made military vaccines mandatory in August 2021, but implementation is up to each service. Abbott formally informed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that he would not enforce the vaccination requirement for his state’s Guardsmen, prompting the lawsuit.
Abbott told Norris in October that any Guardsmen who refuse to get the vaccine will not be punished.
It’s the most recent spat between Texas and the Biden administration on COVID-19 policies. Several lawsuits against the federal government over mask regulations and vaccination requirements have been filed by the governor and Paxton during the outbreak, with several currently active in the courts.
Gov. Kevin Stitt, R-Oklahoma, recently lost a similar case in which he sought to overturn the Pentagon’s vaccination rules for the National Guard.