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Gov. Abbott to sue Biden administration to prevent vaccine mandate for Texas National Guard

The lawsuit comes weeks after Abbott sent a letter to the the Secretary of Defense saying he would not enforce the vaccine mandate on members of the Guard.

TEXAS, USA — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday that the state would sue President Biden's administration over its vaccine requirement for all members of the military, including National Guardsmen.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Tyler on Tuesday.

In a letter released Jan. 4, Abbott reminds leaders of the Texas National Guard not to punish Guardsmen who choose not to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

"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 the letter. "And as long as I am your commander-in-chief, I will not tolerate efforts to compel receipt of a COVID19 vaccine. To the extent the DoD vaccine mandate conflicts with the order I have given, my order controls."

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the lawsuit shortly after Abbott released the latest letter. The lawsuit argues that neither department secretaries nor other agents to the federal government may withhold payment from individual servicemembers, in direct opposition of a recent memorandum from the U.S. Department of Defense.

The Department of Defense previously said Guardsmen who are not vaccinated should be barred from participating in drills due to their vaccination refusal. Without participation in drills, those members won't receive credit toward retirement and other federal benefits, which are funded by money from the federal government.

The new lawsuit regarding the Biden administration's vaccine mandate comes after Abbott sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in December, reaffirming that Texas would not impose a vaccine mandate on members of the Texas National Guard. In that letter, Abbott said he would "deploy every legal tool available" as governor if the federal government insisted on defunding the Texas National Guard through a vaccine mandate.

The lawsuit states that there are more than 220 members of the Texas Air National Guard who are refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and that approximately 40% of Texas Army National Guard members are refusing the shot. 

The lawsuit further argues that the implementation of the vaccine mandate would lead to the loss of guardsmen who refuse to get the vaccine, leading to inevitable harm to the state when responding to natural disasters and securing the border with Mexico.

The letter from Abbott addressed all Texas Guardsmen who serve in a Title 32 status or a state active duty status. Under Title 32 status, the Texas National Guard remains under command of the Texas governor, but has been authorized or directed by the president to be mobilized and is funded by the DoD.

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