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Texas Gov. Abbott sues Biden over military COVID vaccine mandate

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on June 22, 2020. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman/TNS)
January 05, 2022

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday he is suing President Joe Biden’s administration over its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which he described as exerting unconstitutional authority over Texas National Guard members.

In a letter to Texas’ Military Department and Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, Abbott ordered Norris not to punish Texas National Guard members for not receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, and revealed his intent to sue the federal government.

“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,” Abbott said in the letter. “Unless President Biden federalizes the Texas National Guard in accordance with Title 10 of the U.S. Code, he is not your commander-in-chief under our federal or state Constitutions,” Abbott wrote.

Abbott’s lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas on Tuesday and names Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth as defendants.

Approximately 40 percent of Texas Army National Guard force and 200 airmen in the Air National Guard had refused the COVID-19 vaccine “for either religious accommodation needs or otherwise,” Abbott’s lawsuit revealed.

Abbott said it will be up to the federal courts to decide if Biden’s mandate has violated the Second Militia Clause in the constitution for “undermining my command-in-chief power, instead of federalizing Texas’s guardsmen to use his own command-in-chief power.”

The letter noted that Biden has legal authority to call up the state’s National Guard members for federal service, and from that point as their official commander-in-chief, he could order them to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Win or lose, President Biden must be held accountable for his unconscionable willingness to hollow out the Texas National Guard,” Abbott said.

Texas is one of seven states’ governors that have called for an exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for their respective states’ National Guard troops. Governors Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, Mike Dunleavy of Alaska, Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Tate Reeves of Mississippi, Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, Mark Gordon of Wyoming have also called to exempt their states’ troops.

In October, Abbott ordered Norris to comply with Executive Order GA-39, Abbott’s executive order declaring that individuals cannot be forced by a government entity to take a COVID-19 vaccine.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s position has been that National Guard troops mobilized under Title 32 can be mandated to take the vaccines, even if they remain under the command of their state’s governors. The DoD has said unvaccinated National Guard troops may be ineligible for federal pay.