Last Updated: October 06, 2022
On March 13, 2020, pursuant to his authority under Tex. Govt. Code § 418.014, Governor Abbott declared that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) posed an imminent threat of disaster for all counties in Texas. That disaster declaration has been renewed every thirty days since then. The Governor’s executive orders, issued pursuant to the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, have the force and effect of law and supersede local regulations. Tex. Gov’t Code § 418.011–.012. The following executive orders currently protect Texas citizens from vaccine mandates.
Texas Governor Executive Orders
Attorney General Ken Paxton’s position is clear that the Governor’s orders and state law apply to all Texans and protect their right to make healthcare decisions for themselves and their family. He has successfully defended these orders throughout the State.
Texas Attorney General Lawsuits Against the Federal Government
Occupational Safety and Health Administration Lawsuit
Status: Vaccine mandate on private employers with 100 or more employees rescinded after United States Supreme Court blocked its enforcement
Attorney General Paxton and several allied states and companies sued the Biden Administration for its illegal and unconstitutional vaccine mandate imposed on private businesses. As part of his COVID-19 Action Plan announced in early September 2021, President Biden committed to requiring all private employers in America with 100 or more employees to force their employees to get vaccinated or submit to a weekly testing regime at their expense. Attorney General Paxton obtained a court order from the Fifth Circuit blocking enforcement of the mandate. Texas’ case was then grouped with other similar challenges in other states. The United States Supreme Court ultimately agreed that enforcement of the mandate should continue to be blocked, holding OSHA lacked authority to compel vaccine mandates through an “emergency temporary standard.” After this ruling, and after Attorney General Paxton joined twenty-five other states requesting that the Biden Administration withdraw this unconstitutional mandate and pursue it no further, the mandate was withdrawn and all cases filed to block it were dismissed.
Federal Contractor Lawsuit
Status: A nationwide injunction prohibits enforcement of the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate requiring private and government employers who have entered into contracts with the federal government to force vaccinations on their employees
In November 2021, Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Biden Administration over its directives to federal agencies to institute requirements that private and government employers who have entered into contracts with the federal government force vaccinations on their employees. This mandate could affect many of the universities in Texas, among others. While the court considered Texas’ request for an injunction against the Biden Administration, a separate federal district court in Georgia issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the federal-contractor vaccine mandate and a federal judge in Louisiana also issued a limited injunction. Because the Georgia injunction provided the exact relief sought by Texas, the trial court has paused the proceedings and not ruled on Texas’ request for injunctive relief. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit has preliminarily denied the federal government’s request to undo the trial court’s injunction. The federal government did not request that relief in the Fifth Circuit. Neither appellate court has ruled on the appeals, although oral argument has been held in Georgia and is scheduled in Louisiana. Texas has joined with dozens of other states in filing amicus briefs in both the Eleventh and the Fifth Circuit cases and will continue to support these challenges to the federal contractor vaccine mandate.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Lawsuit
Status: Supreme Court upheld Biden Administration’s vaccine requirement imposed on employees of healthcare facilities that receive Medicaid or Medicare funding
On November 15, 2021, Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Biden Administration challenging a vaccine mandate handed down by the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services—the federal agency the administers the Medicaid and Medicare programs— imposing an unprecedented federal vaccine decree on nearly every full-time employee, part-time employee, student, intern, volunteer, and contractor working at a wide range of healthcare facilities that received any Medicare or Medicaid funding. On December 15, 2021, the Texas district court granted Texas’ motion for a preliminary injunction and prohibited enforcement of the mandate within this state. That same day, the Fifth Circuit upheld a Louisiana district court order blocking the mandate in fourteen states. A district court in Missouri also issued an injunction affecting ten states which was upheld by the Eighth Circuit. The Biden Administration asked the United States Supreme Court to block the injunctions in the Louisiana and Missouri led cases and, unfortunately, the Court granted that request, holding the vaccine mandate falls within CMS’s authority. Based on that ruling, the Texas case has been dismissed. The ten states in the Missouri lawsuit returned to the lower federal courts for a hearing on the merits which the Biden Administration won. On October 3, 2022, the Supreme Court denied review of that decision so people employed at health care facilities that receive federal funding through Medicare and Medicaid may be required to get the vaccine.
Head Start Lawsuit
Status: Texas attained a preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of a vaccine-and-mask mandate on staff and volunteers of the Head Start Program
On December 10, 2021, Attorney General Ken Paxton filed the first lawsuit against the Biden Administration after it mandated that staff and volunteers working in the Head Start Program, a federally funded program that promotes the school readiness of young children from low-income families, receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The mandate further required all participating program parents, staff, volunteers, and children over 2 years of age to wear a mask while attending school. On New Years’ Eve, the trial court granted Texas’ request for an injunction prohibiting enforcement of the mandate in Texas (later, twenty-four other states also obtained injunctions). The Biden Administration did not appeal that judgment and both sides have filed motions to bring an end to the case. It is still pending but a ruling is expected soon. Action has also been taken in Congress to rescind the mandate.
Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard Lawsuit
Status: Texas sued to stop forced vaccination of the Texas Air and National Guard, but federal court refused to enjoin the mandate
On January 4, 2022, on behalf of Governor Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Biden Administration over the U.S. Department of Defense’s attempt to force vaccinations on all National Guard personnel despite the federal government’s limited authority over national guardsmen, who perform their duties under the command and control of the Governor. On June 24, the trial court refused to block the mandate finding that the Administration has the power to enforce funding conditions linked to providing for the common defense. Attorney General Paxton has appealed that decision to the Fifth Circuit and requested an expedited hearing. Argument on the case is scheduled for November 7, 2022.
Federal employees lawsuit
Status: A Texas federal court has issued a nationwide injunction prohibiting enforcement of the federal employee vaccine mandate on all federal employees
On September 9, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order requiring all federal workers, a number exceeding 3.5 million, to be vaccinated by November 22, 2021. Feds for Medical Freedom, a Nevada nonprofit comprised of thousands of employees of federal agencies formed to oppose the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate on all federal employees, sued the Biden Administration in Texas. The court issued a nationwide injunction, ruling that President Biden exceeded his authority in forcing federal employees to receive vaccinations. On the government’s appeal, a panel of the Fifth Circuit reversed the ruling holding that the federal district court did not have jurisdiction because the federal employees had not followed civil service administrative procedures. The federal employees requested that the full membership of the Fifth Circuit reconsider the case and the Court agreed to do so, vacated the panel’s judgment, and set oral argument for September 13, 2022. Although Texas was unable to bring this lawsuit because the state lacks standing to represent the interests of federal employees, Attorney General Ken Paxton supports and applauds this effort by federal government employees to defend their personal liberty.