After saying last month he would not impose a federal vaccine mandate on members of the Texas National Guard, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) now says he is suing the Biden Administration over the directive.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton confirmed Tuesday afternoon that he'd filed the suit on the governor's behalf (which can be read at the bottom of the page) and added that neither the president nor federal military officials can order the Texas governor and non-federalized National Guardsmen to comply with a vaccination mandate or to direct a particular disciplinary action for failure to comply with the mandate.
“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 prepared statement.
On Tuesday, Abbott's office said he sent a letter to Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris with the Texas Military Department and announced his intention to sue while reaffirming his position that members of the Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard are not to be punished for choosing not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
The governor said in his letter that he is the commander-in-chief of the Texas militia, not the president, and as such he "will not tolerate efforts to compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine."
"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.
In November 2021, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin laid out the consequences for service members who refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19, including members of the National Guard. An NBC News report said Austin's memo indicated they would face loss of pay and be marked absent without cause from drills and training.
Meanwhile, a federal judge in Texas on Monday granted a preliminary injunction stopping the US Navy from acting against 35 sailors for refusing on religious grounds to comply with an order to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
News from around the state of Texas.
Abbott's lawsuit filed Tuesday cites the judge's injunction from the day before.
Beto O'Rourke, a Democratic challenger who hopes to unseat Abbott this year, said the governor is picking fights about vaccination requirements while blocking local leaders from protecting their communities against the surge of the omicron variant of the virus.
“As Abbott brags about stopping schools from requiring masks in the classroom, Texas leads the nation in child Covid hospitalizations. If he’s not going to take action, he needs to get out of the way and allow schools and local leaders to keep kids safe," O'Rourke said in a statement Tuesday. “Covid hospitalizations in Texas have doubled in the past two weeks. They’ve tripled among children. We’re sending more kids to the ER than any other state because Abbott refuses to lead."
The positivity index, the percentage of PCR COVID-19 tests that are positive, hit a pandemic high in Texas on Monday with 33.9%.