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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vows to sue Biden administration over vaccine order for National Guard troops

January 4, 2022 at 10:00 p.m.

AUSTIN -- Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he intends to sue to block a Biden administration rule requiring Texas National Guard members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

In a letter to the Texas Military Department, Abbott also reminded officials of his October order, as commander of Texas military units, that prohibited officers from punishing Guard members who declined to be vaccinated.

"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 Tuesday's letter to Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris of the Texas Military Department.

"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.

The governor, who has issued executive orders banning vaccine mandates by businesses and governments in Texas, said the federal vaccine rule violated the U.S. Constitution's Second Militia Clause by undermining his power as commander in chief of the Texas National Guard.

Abbott told Norris that he intends to ask a federal judge to block the vaccination mandate.

"I cannot guarantee that the judiciary will grant the relief you deserve. And if President Biden lawfully calls you into the actual service of the United States, then he could order you to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in his newfound role as your commander-in-chief," Abbott wrote.

In August, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin directed members of the U.S. military, including the National Guard, to be vaccinated against COVID-19, saying the preventive measure was essential to maintaining the nation's military readiness.

Austin followed with a late-November memo outlining the impact noncompliance would have on nonfederalized troops, such as members of the National Guard, saying that unvaccinated soldiers will not be paid using federal defense money, nor will they be allowed to to participate in drills, training or other duties, Austin said.

In his letter to Norris, Abbott said the federal rules pose a "career-ending threat to Texas's unvaccinated guardsmen."

"In short, the Biden DoD is threatening to take direct action against guardsmen who do not submit to a vaccine mandate that the State of Texas declines to enforce," Abbott wrote.

Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued to block a Biden administration rule imposing a vaccine mandate on employees of Medicaid and Medicare providers and suppliers. And on Monday, a separate Paxton lawsuit prompted a federal judge in Lubbock to issue an order blocking a vaccine requirement for staff and volunteers of the federally funded Head Start child education program.


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