Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday he plans to sue the federal government for its vaccine mandate of the Texas National Guard.
In a letter to Adjutant General of the Texas National Guard Major General Tracy R. Norris, the governor accused President Joe Biden of trying to hollow out the National Guard with the mandate and said he would sue the Biden Administration for undermining his commander-in-chief power over the Texas National Guard.
“As the commander-in-chief of Texas’s militia,” Abbott said, “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.”
The news comes as a response to a memo released by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last November warning that unvaccinated members of the National Guard aren’t eligible for pay or federal training, which affects promotions and federal benefits for veterans.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt had made a similar complaint over the mandate last year, asking Secretary Austin for an exemption because it violated the “personal freedoms” of Oklahomans.
Austin rejected the request a few weeks later citing military readiness and then promptly released the November memo that pressured National Guardsmen to comply with the mandate.
National Guard units are typically controlled by states under Title 32 orders unless federalized by the U.S. government with Title 10 orders.
“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 said in his letter. “And as long as I am your commander-in-chief, I will not tolerate efforts to compel receipt of a COVID19 vaccine.
Thousands of members of the Texas National Guard have been mobilized by Abbott for “Operation Lone Star,” an immigration enforcement initiative involving state law enforcement agencies that has allowed the governor to unconstitutionally create a separate legal system for migrants.
In December, Army Times reported on a wave of suicides that had afflicted Texas National Guardsmen on activty duty orders with Operation Lone Star, which began nine months ago and has no end in sight. At least four members are believed to have died by suicide.
Abbott’s pushback against the federal vaccine mandate for troops comes as a record-breaking surge of COVID-19 cases hits the Lone Star State. State data shows 51,481 new cases between Dec. 31 – Jan. 4 and a third of all tests coming back as positive.
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at email@example.com