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The Obama administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court Monday to re-hear the lawsuit that shut down its plan to allow more than four million people here illegally to remain.
The request was a long shot, because such moves are usually rejected.
The justices tied 4-4 last month, leaving a lower court order intact that blocked the immigration plan from going into effect.
Announced in late 2014, the immigration plan would shield more than four million people from deportation. Texas and 25 other states sued, claiming the president had no power to order the changes, but the court did not rule on the merits of that claim.
In seeking rehearing — a change to argue the same case over again — the Justice Department said the move "is consistent with historical practice and reflects the need for prompt and definitive resolution of this important case."
However, as the government itself acknowledged in its Monday filing, "it is exceedingly rare for this court to grant rehearing." The most recent case it could find where such a request was granted was in 1954.
The government was hoping that by filing now, the court would keep the request on hold until a ninth justice is confirmed. The request said when the court has granted rehearing in the past, it has most often been when a vacancy led to a tie vote.
"It would be very surprising if the court granted this request," said Tom Goldstein, the publisher of the SCOTUSBlog website and a lawyer who argues frequently before the court.
"I would say it's largely dead on arrival, but you can't blame the government for trying," he said.
The court will not act on the request until October at the earliest, when the new term begins.