Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) suggested Tuesday that the online sales tax legislation that easily cleared the Senate this week was not one of the House's top priorities.
Boehner referred reporters at a news conference to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who has expressed concerns about the Senate bill.
“I think they have jurisdiction over this. I've not talked to him about it,” Boehner said. “I don't know what his intent is, in terms of whether he's interested in moving it through his committee or not.”
“I'm for regular order,” Boehner added, when pressed about whether he is personally interested in the bill.
Senate Republicans split roughly down the middle — 21 for, and 22 against — on the proposal. The breakdown underscores that the measure likely faces a rockier path in the GOP-controlled House.
But retail groups and state governments, which could gain more than $20 billion in new revenue each year under the bill, have made the sales tax measure a major priority. Because of that, Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and other GOP leaders will find themselves under intense pressure to bring the bill to the floor, according to a leading House Democrat.
“I think the overwhelming number of Democrats are for this bill, I think a large number of Republicans are for this bill,” Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters shortly after Boehner’s comments. “I think they're going to get a lot of pressure from retail people in their states who are having to compete with online sellers who don't pay tax.”
Currently, states can only charge sales tax to retailers that are physically located there, a situation that brick-and-mortar retailers say gives some online shopping outlets an unfair advantage. The Marketplace Fairness Act would let states collect sales taxes from online U.S. retailers with at least $1 million in out-of-state sales, no matter where they’re located.
“I think that this is a bill that Boehner's going to find — or Cantor — find difficult not bringing to the floor for a vote,” Hoyer said. “And I think that when it's brought to the floor for a vote, it'll pass — pass handily."
Goodlatte said following Monday’s Senate vote that he still had major concerns about the bill, and the burden it would place on smaller retailers to collect sales taxes for so many jurisdictions.
“While it attempts to make tax collection simpler, it still has a long way to go," Goodlatte said in a statement about the Senate bill. "There is still not uniformity on definitions and tax rates, so businesses would still be forced to wade through potentially hundreds of tax rates and a host of different tax codes and definitions."
But Goodlatte has also said that he understands the concerns of brick-and-mortar retailers.
Some leading groups on the right, like Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and Heritage Action, have slammed the sales tax proposal, saying it should be viewed as a tax increase on consumers and that it would open businesses to more audits and higher compliance costs.