WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Tuesday he will announce a candidate next week to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.
Trump had said earlier this month he would choose a nominee within two weeks of his inauguration.
“We will pick a truly great Supreme Court justice,” Trump told reporters who asked about the vacancy as the president signed paperwork to advance construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.
“Sometime next week,” Trump said about his timeline for naming someone to fill the nearly yearlong vacancy created by the February 2016 death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia. “Probably making my decision this week, we’ll be announcing next week.”
“We have outstanding candidates,” he said. Trump was summoning top senators to the White House later Tuesday to discuss the nomination.
During the campaign, Trump released a list of 20 names of people he said he would consider for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court. Before he was sworn in to office, he asserted that potential court appointments were among the reasons he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in the election.
“I think the people of this country did not want to see what was happening with the Supreme Court, so I think it was a very, very big decision as to why I was elected,” Trump said at a Jan. 11 news conference at New York’s Trump Tower.
After Scalia’s death, Obama nominated federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland to replace the late jurist. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., refused to schedule a confirmation hearing. Garland returned to his own courtroom last week.
Besides taking steps to advance construction of the oil pipelines, subject to renegotiation of the agreements, Trump also signed a notice Tuesday requiring the materials for the pipelines be constructed in the United States, though it was unclear how he planned to enforce the measure.
“From now we are going to start making pipelines in the United States,” he said.
Trump has sought to focus his first full week in office on jobs and the economy. Republicans, as well as some unions, have cited the pipeline projects as prime opportunities for job growth.
Obama stopped the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in late 2015, declaring it would have undercut U.S. efforts to clinch a global climate change deal that was a centerpiece of his environmental legacy. The pipeline would run from Canada to Nebraska where it would connect to existing lines running to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast. The U.S. government needs to approve the pipeline because it would cross the nation’s northern border.
Separately, late last year, the Army Corps of Engineers declined to allow construction of the Dakota Access pipeline under Lake Oahe, saying alternative routes needed to be considered. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters say the project threatens drinking water and Native American sites, though Energy Transfer Partners, the company that wants to build the pipeline, disputes that and says the pipeline will be safe.
The pipeline is to carry North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois.