Jan 27, 2022 - Health

Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy in 2020. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) has joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) lawsuit to block President Biden and the Department of Defense from enforcing a vaccine mandate for the National Guard, his office announced Thursday.

Why it matters: The lawsuit argues that when national guardsmen are serving the state, the federal government does not have authority over them.

  • "There has long been a clear and distinct line between when National Guardsmen are governed by state authority and when they are governed by federal authority. When National Guardsmen are serving the State, the federal government has no command authority," the lawsuit states.
  • As such the governors believe the federal vaccine mandate "usurps state sovereignty," per the press release.

State of play: The lawsuit with the two governors is an amended version of a lawsuit filed by Texas earlier this month, per AP.

  • The initial lawsuit filed by Abbot to challenge the federal vaccine mandate argued that the rule encroached "on Governor Abbott's authority as Commander in Chief and on Texas's sovereignty," CNN reported.

What they're saying: “Protecting the freedom and liberty of National Guard members has fallen on responsible governors," Dunleavy said in the press release.

  • "The federal government has no authority to make health decisions for National Guard members who are at work under state authority," he added.
  • “This is not a case demanding a position of pro- or anti-vaccine, nor is it a case that challenges any aspect of the federal government’s authority over National Guardsmen once federal authority has been properly established,” the lawsuit reads.

The big picture: In August, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin mandated that all service members, including the National Guard, be inoculated against the coronavirus.

  • In late December, a federal court rejected a lawsuit by the state of Oklahoma attempting to block the Pentagon's enforcement of the mandate, saying the challenge was "without merit."
  • The mandate posits that Air National Guard and Army National Guard members who fail to get vaccinated will be barred from drills and other duties, and won't be paid even when they're under state control.
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