Supreme Court keeps revised Pennsylvania congressional map in place

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday rejected a request from Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers to throw out a new congressional district map drawn by the state's highest court.

The justices allowed the map to stand in a brief order denying a request for an emergency stay of enforcement. The court made no additional comment on the request.

A few hours earlier, a federal court in Pennsylvania also allowed the redrawn boundaries to begin going into effect.

"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," the panel of judges wrote. "These are things that, on the present record, we cannot do."

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania had ruled that a 2011 GOP-crafted district map violated the state constitution's guarantee of free and equal elections. The new map was handed down by the court last month.

The pair of rulings makes it highly likely that this year's congressional elections in Pennsylvania will be conducted under district lines widely viewed as more favorable to Democrats than the 2011 map. Republicans had won 13 of the state's 18 congressional seats in the three elections where the old map was used.

The federal judges' decision comes in a case brought a month ago by eight sitting Republican congressmen and two GOP state senators. They argued the state justices infringed on the Legislature's prerogative and did not give lawmakers enough time to come up with a replacement.

The panel said the senators have only two votes in their chamber, calling that "inadequate as a matter of law to allow a lawsuit premised on an institutional injury to the General Assembly." The eight Republican congressmen, the judges wrote, may have wasted resources campaigning in their old districts, but they cannot prove that was caused by a violation of the U.S. Constitution's Elections Clause.

"The cost of shifting district boundaries -- in terms of both campaign funding and constituent fealty -- is surely appreciable," the judges wrote. "But the federal congressional plaintiffs have identified no legal principle tethering that cost to a legally cognizable interest in the composition of their electoral districts under the Elections Clause."

The emergency stay request was brought to the U.S. Supreme Court by two senior Republicans in the state Legislature who were on the losing end of the state Supreme Court decision. A stay would have resulted in the use of the 2011 map for this year's congressional elections in Pennsylvania. They wanted the new map put on hold while they pursued an appeal to the nation's highest court.

Both decisions came with just one day left for the state's congressional candidates to circulate petitions to get on the May 15 primary ballot. A special election for an open congressional seat last week did not use the revised maps.

More than 40 candidates had filed petition paperwork by mid-day Monday, according to state elections bureau data.

Fox News' Bill Mears and The Associated Press contributed to this report.