HARRISBURG, PA (WSKG) – Within hours of one another on Monday afternoon, the US Supreme Court and a lower federal district court rejected Republican appeals against the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to redraw the state’s congressional map.
That leaves the state GOP with very few avenues to fight the new map before this year’s midterm elections in November.
The congressional saga began nearly two months ago, when the state Supreme Court declared the commonwealth’s 2011 district lines unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Republicans.
The court ultimately redrew the map with the help of an independent Stanford University expert. The final version made Democrats significantly more competitive.
Republicans were–and still are–outraged.
Their two federal challenges were slightly different, but both hinged on the argument that the justices didn’t give lawmakers enough time to fix the map themselves, concluding the court’s decision violated the US Constitution’s Elections Clause, which gives legislatures the authority to decide how redistricting happens.
House Republicans also contended the state court “overstepped its authority in an unprecedented fashion when it legislated from the bench, by adding new requirements for drawing congressional districts which do not exist either in the Pennsylvania Constitution or the U.S. Constitution.”
But after several weeks of deliberation, both higher courts rejected those arguments.
The US Supreme Court denied the appeal without elaboration, and filed no dissents.
The federal judge panel in the middle district said the two GOP senators and eight congressmen who filed suit don’t have standing, because they can’t speak for the whole General Assembly.
“The Plaintiffs invite us to opine on the appropriate balance of power between the Commonwealth’s legislature and judiciary in redistricting matters, and then to pass judgment on the propriety of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s actions under the United States Constitution,” they wrote. “These are things that, on the present record, we cannot do.”
Both GOP caucuses indicated they’re not happy the courts won’t rule.
House GOP leaders appear to be backing off, however, saying they’re “prepared to move on to other issues of importance to the people of Pennsylvania.”
Senate leaders seem more ambivalent.
They noted, the lower federal court dismissed the case because they decided Republicans didn’t have standing to challenge it–not necessarily because the facts of the case demanded it.
“We still believe these issues in this case are vital constitutional questions that deserve to be heard, including the PA Supreme Court taking on the role of creating legislation,” they wrote in a statement. “The state court’s decision to draw maps takes us down a path for the creation of another legislative body in Pennsylvania.”
Asked if they have any further plan to challenge the new map, the caucus declined to comment.