By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Gov. Mark Gordon has joined four other Republican governors in challenging the federal government’s ability to enforce a vaccine mandate on National Guard members.
In the letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, the governors argued that disciplinary directives to National Guard members serving in a state capacity “are beyond (the Secretary’s) constitutional and statutory authority.”
Under the vaccine mandate of the administration of President Joe Biden, National Guard members were given until Dec. 2 to get the vaccine, obtain an exemption from the requirement or be removed from service.
But Gordon said the federal government does not have command or control of National Guard units.
“Under Title 32 duty status, the Wyoming National Guard is under my command and control,” Gordon said Tuesday. “These directives are an overreach of the federal government’s authority.”
In the letter to Austin, the governors noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed “that the National Guard is under the command and control of the Governor of each state unless those members are called to active service under Title 10.”
The letter asks Austin to reconsider directives that dictate whether training can occur, set punishment requirements and require separation from a state’s National Guard for any Guard member refusing to be COVID-19 vaccinated.
Joining Gordon in signing the letter were Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi and Gov. Mike Dunleavy of Alaska and Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma.
Late last month, a federal judge ordered a halt to the enforcement and implementation of the vaccine mandate for health care workers in Wyoming and other states.
Wyoming, as part of a coalition with nine other states, argued that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services does not have authority to issue the mandate and that the vaccine requirement would impact the ability of health care facilities to effectively care for patients.
President Joe Biden earlier this year announced his plan to require vaccinations for federal employees, health care workers and workers at companies that employ more than 100.
Last month, Gordon signed HB1002, which prohibits state and local public entities from enforcing a federal mandate. However, it would not take effect until a federal court, in response to legal action, blocks the mandate.