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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

Jan 15, 2022 - Health

Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron

Three COVID-19 testing companies place testing locations outside Grand Central Terminal on Jan. 14 in New York City. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Experts are warning that subsequent COVID-19 variants are likely to come after Omicron, AP reports.

Why it matters: The warnings come as there's no guarantee that subsequent variants "will cause milder illness or that existing vaccines will work against them," underscoring the need for widespread vaccination, AP writes.

Hope King, author of Closer
52 mins ago - Economy & Business

Peloton pumps its brakes

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Peloton’s popularity is falling as swiftly as it shot up.

Why it matters: Not all pandemic habits stick around. Peloton's trajectory over the past two years exemplifies how challenging it's been for companies to gauge shifts in consumer demand — particularly in sectors heavily altered by the pandemic.

First look: Senators propose bill to ban corporate PACs

Sens. Jon Ossoff and Mark Kelly. Photos: Chip Somodevilla (left), Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

Sens. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) will soon propose a bill prohibiting for-profit corporations from establishing and managing political action committees, according to a copy of the legislation obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The introduction of "The Ban Corporate PACs Act" comes amid heightened scrutiny on Capitol Hill regarding money in politics, including efforts to bar companies from influencing political campaigns and federal elections. It would likely face a court challenge and First Amendment concerns.