Dec 3, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin testifies before a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 29 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Getty Images

The state of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration on Thursday in an attempt to block the enforcement of its vaccine mandate for federal employees.

Why it matters: The move comes one day after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin denied Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt's (R) request to exempt the state's National Guard from the mandate.

  • It's the latest escalation in Stitt's scuffle with the Pentagon over the mandate, which requires the Air National Guard and Army National Guard to get vaccinated by Thursday and June 30, respectively.
  • Those who fail to comply will be barred from drills and other duties, and won't be paid even when they're under state control.

Details: The complaint argues that the mandate is unconstitutional and "ensures that many Oklahoma National Guard members will simply quit instead of getting a vaccine, a situation that will irreparably harm Oklahomans’ safety and security."

  • Stitt claims that under Title 32 of the U.S. Code, he holds authority over the state's Guard members unless they are mobilized by the president.
  • "It is unconscionable that President Biden and his administration are choosing to play politics with military paychecks," he said in a statement.

Worth noting: The suit is asking the court to block the mandate for all federal employees, not just the National Guard.

  • The Biden administration did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

What they're saying: The Pentagon declined to comment due to the ongoing litigation. But Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby released a statement via email on the wider issue:

"We are not aware of any Governor attempting to prohibit members from receiving the vaccine, and don't see this as placing any individual member in conflict with state authorities. ... The Governors may not relieve individual members of the Guard from their obligation to comply with this valid medical readiness requirement established by the Department."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Kirby.

Go deeper