AUSTIN (Nexstar) – Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton on Tuesday sued the federal government over COVID-19 vaccine claims against members of the Texas National Guard. Paxton confirmed he was suing the Biden administration over the mandate Tuesday afternoon.
“Neither the president nor federal military officials can order the governor of Texas and non-federal national guards to comply with a vaccination mandate or to direct a particular disciplinary action for non-compliance,” Paxton’s office said in a statement.
In a letter to Major General Tracy Norris, head of the Texas Military Department, Abbott said he “will not tolerate” the efforts of the Biden administration and the U.S. Department of Defense to force members to show evidence of coronavirus vaccination.
“I have issued an outright order to every member of the Texas National Guard within my command: do not punish any guard for choosing not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” Abbott said in the letter.
The Republican governor went on to say he is the commander-in-chief of state guard members and therefore will not be “commanded to carry out the work of the federal government” unless President Joe Biden federalizes the Texas National Guard.
“Although my order has been in place for several months now, President Biden has muddied the water with a vaccine mandate from the U.S. Department of Defense,” he said.
“This is one of the many examples of federal abuse by the Biden administration that my office is fighting hard against,” Paxton said in a statement Tuesday. “Now this administration is planning to exacerbate the border crisis by excluding the very people who are defending the state of Texas that he left and left to bear the costs and consequences of his decisions.”
According to the federal statute in section 10, the President of the United States can mobilize the guard and therefore place members under federal authority. In his letter, Abbott claims he has authority because of Title 32 of the U.S. Code, which states that the guard is under state control unless requested to do so by the federal government. The Department of Defense has argued that since guards are federally funded for training and education, they must follow the federal mandate.
Austin imposed military vaccinations in August 2021, but each service is responsible for implementation. The trial comes weeks after Abbott formally told Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that he would not impose the vaccine requirement on his state’s guards.
In October, Abbott ordered Norris not to punish any guards who choose not to receive the vaccine.
It marks the recent battle between the Texas and Biden administration over COVID-19 policies. Throughout the pandemic, the governor and Paxton have sued the federal government several times over mask mandates and vaccine rules – several of which are still pending in the courts.
Just a week ago, Governor Kevin Stitt, R-Oklahoma, dropped a similar case to block the Pentagon’s vaccination claims to the National Guard.