By Jonathan Lai and Liz Navratil
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied an attempt by top Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers to delay drawing a new congressional map after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found it unconstitutional.
Days after the state high court threw out the state's congressional district map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, drawn to favor Republicans and discriminate against Democrats, state Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, and State House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.
In their request for a stay of the state court order, Scarnati and Turzai said that the justices were essentially legislating from the bench, taking power that the U.S. Constitution gives to state legislatures.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. denied the stay request.
Experts had viewed the request as a long shot, since the Pennsylvania Supreme Court explicitly noted in its order that it was based "solely" on the state Constitution, keeping it out of the federal realm.
"This is probably the least surprising thing the Supreme Court has done in a long time in denying the state," said Michael Li, a redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.
In its Jan. 22 order overturning the map, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court gave the General Assembly until this Friday to pass a new map, sending it to Gov. Tom Wolf to sign or veto by Thursday of next week.
Otherwise, the court said, it would adopt its own map. It later appointed Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford University professor and redistricting expert, as a special adviser to help it draw a map, if necessary.
Republican lawmakers have accused the court of essentially setting the legislature up to fail by giving it less than three weeks to redraw the congressional lines and not providing a full opinion in the case. The state high court's order said an opinion would follow. Lawmakers hope that the opinion, explaining what the justices found to be unconstitutional in the current map, would provide some guidance on how a new one should look.
An opinion had not been released by midday Monday, four days before the deadline for lawmakers to pass a new map.
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