Supreme Court denies Obama request to rehear major immigration case
US President Barack Obama attends a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on September 11, 2016 commemorating the September 11, 2001 attacks (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to rehear a bid to revive President Barack Obama's plan to spare from deportation millions of immigrants in the country illegally, a case in which the justices split 4-4 in June.

In a brief order, the court rejected the Obama administration's long-shot request, meaning the justices' June 23 decision is final. That ruling left in place lower court decisions that had blocked the plan, which Obama announced in 2014 but never went into effect.

The high court remains one justice short following the February death of Antonin Scalia.

The Democratic president's plan was challenged in court by Republican-governed Texas and 25 other states that argued that he overstepped the powers granted to him by the U.S. Constitution by infringing upon the authority of Congress. Obama acted unilaterally by executive action, bypassing the Republican-led Congress.

"This is the latest setback to the president's attempt to expand executive power and another victory for those who believe in the Constitution's separation of powers and the rule of law," Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said of the Supreme Court's action on Monday.

Obama's plan was designed to let roughly 4 million people - those who have lived illegally in the United States at least since 2010, have no criminal record and have children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents - get into a program that shields them from deportation and supplies work permits.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the top Democrat in the Senate, said Monday's action "further highlights how a shorthanded Supreme Court is unable to do its job."

The Republican-backed Senate, in a move with little precedent in U.S. history, has refused to consider Obama's nominee to replace Scalia, federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, saying Obama's successor should make the appointment.

"By continuing their historic, unprecedented obstruction of Chief Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination, Republicans are spreading gridlock and denying justice to the American people," Reid said.

There are an estimated 11 million immigrants in the United States illegally.

Obama's Justice Department on July 18 asked the court to take a second look at the case once it had a full complement of nine justices.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest expressed disappointment with the Supreme Court's action.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Will Dunham)