Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Thursday the Lone Star State will not impose President Joe Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandate on Texas National Guard.
In August, Abbott issued an executive order barring the implementation of a vaccine mandate by any governmental entity in Texas. The move came after the governor directed ordered Texas Adjutant General Tracy Norris not to penalize guardsmen for rejecting the jab in October.
Abbott wrote in a pointed letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin: “As Governor of Texas, I am the commander-in-chief of this State’s militia. In that capacity, on October 4, 2021, I ordered the Adjutant General of Texas to comply with my Executive Order GA-39. If unvaccinated guardsmen suffer any adverse consequences within the State of Texas, they will have only President Joe Biden and his Administration to blame.”
“The State of Texas will not enforce this latest COVID-19 vaccine mandate against its guardsmen. If the federal government keeps threatening to defund the Texas National Guard, I will deploy every legal tool available to me as Governor in defense of these American heroes,” the governor concluded.
Austin previously warned that service members who objected to being inoculated could face loss of pay and be marked absent without cause from certain duties.
In November, Austin turned down a request by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) for Oklahoma National Guard be exempt from the Department of Defense’s vaccine requirement that all military members.
Stitt, a Republican, had asked Austin in early November to suspend the mandate for members of the Oklahoma Guard.
A spokesman for Stitt, Charlie Hannema, said in response to Austin’s rejection letter that the governor “maintains his position” that he is commander in chief of the Oklahoma Guard while they are on Title 32 status, meaning while they are on active duty under state control but with pay and benefits provided by the federal government.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.