The Honorable John Hoeven
123 Broadway North
Suite 201
Fargo, ND 58102

I would have preferred not having to send this so quickly upon the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Time to allow mourning would have been appropriate. Unfortunately, it only took hours after the news of her passing for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to declare he would push to fill the vacancy now found on the Court. Many of your colleagues are beginning to echo his words. Your urgent attention is now necessary.

This letter is to ask that you live up to your own words. Don’t allow them to hang empty. Though McConnell will forever be remembered as the man who broke the Senate, his enablers will also appear in the history books. The question for you is what do you want your legacy to be? A Senator who meant what he said or an accomplice to the demise of the chamber that once housed American giants now filled with pretentious people undeserving of its title.

Senator, in 2016 you made it clear you would not support a SCOTUS nominee in the final year of a president’s term. Your direct statement was about the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia. Weeks later, then-President Obama nominated Merrick Garland. Garland was nominated in March of that election year. 237 days before the presidential election. As a refresher, here is your initial comment from 2016.

There is 80 years of precedent for not nominating and confirming a new justice of the Supreme Court in the final year of a president’s term so that people can have a say in this very important decision. Further, the people should have a say because the Supreme Court will be ruling on many important issues for our state and nation, including challenges to costly new energy regulations.
– Senator John Hoeven (Feb. 15th, 2016 quote in Fargo Forum)

You went on to release a statement in March that reads as follows:

“The American people need to have an opportunity to voice their opinion at the ballot box as to what kind of judge they want to replace Justice Antonin Scalia. In fact, that is actually a bipartisan position expressed by numerous Democratic leaders in recent years.” – Senator John Hoeven (March 16th, 2016)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed 46 days before the 2020 election. Will you let your words from 2016 ring empty? Or will you stand by your comments that, “people should have a say” as the Court has very important issues before them impacting our state and nation? One of those important issues is the lawsuit to overturn ACA and protections for people with pre-existing conditions. A lawsuit I know you support.

I get asked frequently why it seems I’ve been hard on you lately. My answer is simple and consistent. As someone who has met you and has voted for you multiple times, I’ve been disappointed in recent years. (And let’s be real, you and I agree there is little hope with Senator Kevin Cramer. Yeah, we talk to the same people sometimes.) I think Washington has changed your leadership over the years.

Your silence on pressing issues doesn’t go unnoticed. Yet in ND media, that silence often goes unreported. For whatever reason, I think they’ve given you a pass over the years. Perhaps, that is why it gets more attention when I press you on topics. Their boredom has allowed hallow words lacking substance for too long. This moment, with so much at stake, we cannot afford silence.

I know McConnell has already told you to “keep your powder dry” on this vacancy. I think it is okay to shoot from the hip from time to time and not wait for pre-approved talking points from Kentucky. Take your popularity in ND for a walk, but be real. Be honest with us and yourself.

Senator Hoeven, you know the math. The Senate is one vote away from relevancy. One vote away from ripping this country further apart during a contentious election. Will you enable McConnell to break the Senate permanently? You’ve also seen the polls. And though things can change in 45 days, you know that currently, people are choosing to not go forward with this administration, this President, and perhaps your majority in the Senate beyond 2020.

You, yourself Senator, said the people should have a say in SCOTUS nominations the final year of a president’s term. We are now in the final weeks of a president’s term. 45 days as of this writing. Will you break your word, your chamber, and our democracy? Or, will you stand for what you spoke, the integrity of the Senate, and not pour gasoline on the political fire that currently burns across this country?

I look forward to your prompt response.

Take care,
Tyler Axness

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