Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott is suing the Biden administration to block the Pentagon's vaccine mandate for the Texas National Guard, saying it contradicts his own order against punishing guardsmen who refuse a COVID-19 shot.
In a letter Tuesday to Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, adjutant general of the Texas Military Department, Abbott claimed the federal government has put Texas guardsmen in a "difficult position."
"As the commander-in-chief of Texas' militia, 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," he wrote.
"Although my order has been in effect for months now, President [Joe] Biden has muddied the waters with a vaccine mandate from the U.S. Department of Defense," the letter added.
The lawsuit comes after Abbott told Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin he will not impose a vaccine mandate on Texas National Guardsmen.
Air National Guard members had until Dec. 31 to comply after the Air Force extended an earlier deadline, according to The Hill, and Army National Guard members have until June 30 to be vaccinated.
Abbott's lawsuit also comes just a week after Oklahoma GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt lost a similar case to block the Pentagon's vaccine mandate for National Guard members.
Stitt was the first Republican governor to sue the Pentagon over the mandate in December after Austin denied his request to exempt his state's guardsmen from the mandate. U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot said in a ruling the claims made in that suit were "without merit," The Oklahoman reported.
Five other GOP governors have urged Austin to exempt the National Guard from the vaccine mandate, The Hill reported.
There are two federal statutes that dictate control of the National Guard. Abbott's letter asserts he holds authority over the National Guard under Title 32 of the U.S. Code, which says the National Guard is under state control unless they are called up for federal duty.
Under Title 10, the president can mobilize the National Guard, placing them under federal authority. But the Austin has said guardsmen are federally funded when they receive training or education, so they must follow the mandate regardless, The Hill reported.
"The federal courts have the power to decide whether President Biden violates the U.S. Constitution's Second Militia Clause by undermining my commander-in-chief power, instead of federalizing Texas's guardsmen to use his own commander-in-chief power," Abbott wrote.
"Win or lose, President Biden must be held accountable for his unconscionable willingness to hollow out the Texas National Guard."
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