AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the federal government Tuesday over COVID-19 vaccine requirements for 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-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.
In a letter to Major General Tracy Norris, commander of the Texas Military Department, Abbott said he will “not tolerate” efforts of the Biden Administration and U.S. Department of Defense to compel members to show proof of vaccination against the coronavirus.
“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.
The Republican governor went on to say he is the chief commander of the state’s Guard members and therefore will not be “commandeered into doing the federal government’s work,” unless President Joe Biden federalizes the Texas National Guard.
“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.
“This is one of the many examples of federal overreach by the Biden Administration that my office is adamantly fighting against,” Paxton said in a release Tuesday. “Now this Administration plans to exacerbate the border crisis by taking out the very people defending Texas — the state that he abandoned and left bearing the costs and consequences of his decisions.”
Under the federal statute of Title 10, the President of the United States can mobilize the Guard and therefore place members under federal authority. In his letter, Abbott argues he has authority, due to Title 32 of U.S. code, which says the Guard is under state control unless called upon by the federal government. The Defense Department has argued since Guardsmen are federally funded for training and education, they must follow the federal mandate.
Austin mandated military vaccinations in August 2021, but each service is responsible for implementation. The lawsuit comes weeks after Abbott formally told Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin he would not impose the vaccine requirement for his state’s Guardsmen.
In October, Abbott ordered Norris not to punish any Guardsmen who choose not to receive the vaccine.
It marks the latest fight between Texas and the Biden administration over COVID-19 policies. Throughout the pandemic, the governor and Paxton have sued the federal government numerous times over mask mandates and vaccine rules — several of which are still pending in the courts.
Just a week ago Gov. Kevin Stitt, R-Oklahoma, lost a similar case to block the Pentagon’s vaccination requirements for the National Guard.