Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate

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Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) announced on Thursday that he has joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) lawsuit against the Department of Defense over the vaccine mandate for the National Guard.

The governors - who have previously expressed to the Pentagon their opposition to the mandate - are arguing that the mandate undermines their authority over their states' National Guards.

"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 that federal authority has been properly established," reads the complaint in a Texas federal court.

"Instead, this case seeks to have federal action cabined within federal authority, prohibiting the federal government's unconstitutional attempt to force Texas and Alaska, through their Governors, to submit to federal orders and impose federally dictated disciplinary action on their National Guardsmen," it continues.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin mandated vaccinations for the entire military in late August, but each service is responsible for implementing its own deadlines. Air National Guard members had until Dec. 31 to be inoculated, but Army National Guard members still have until June 30 to be inoculated.

More than 220 members of the Texas Air National Guard and 40 percent of the Texas Army National Guard are refusing to receive the vaccine, according to the complaint.

The suit further states that 8 percent of Alaska Air and Army National Guard members are not vaccinated, of which 90 percent are requesting exemptions that haven't been granted. An additional, undisclosed number are flat-out refusing to get vaccinated.

Dunleavy and Abbott are two of seven GOP governors who have expressed opposition to the National Guard mandate.

Abbott sued the administration earlier this month after announcing that he would not enforce the policy. Dunleavy was one of five governors who in December sent a letter to Austin urging him to drop the mandate for National Guard members.

At the center of the dispute are two federal statutes which determine control over the National Guard.

The governors argue that they control the National Guard under Title 32 of the U.S. Code - which stipulates that the Guard is under state control unless called up for federal duty.

But under Title 10 of the U.S. Code, the president can mobilize the National Guard, placing them under federal authority.

Austin and his officials have maintained that he has the authority to implement the mandate regardless of whether the Guard is operating under Title 32 or Title 10.

"Protecting the freedom and liberty of National Guard members has fallen on responsible governors. The federal government has no authority to make health decisions for National Guard members who are at work under state authority," Dunleavy said in a statement.

"I pledge to protect that medical freedom and to challenge the trampling of our state's rights under the 10th Amendment," he continued.

The Hill has reached out to the Pentagon for comment.

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