Senate floor fight on Internet tax ban expected soon

Supporters of a long-term ban on state and local taxes of Internet access are confident they will have the votes in a soon-expected floor fight. 

A customs bill that includes the indefinite ban on Internet access taxes is expected to move soon, according to Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneOvernight Tech: Senate panel subpoenaed ex-Yahoo chief | Twitter gives all users 280 characters | FBI can't access Texas shooter's phone | EU wants tax answers from Apple Overnight Cybersecurity: What we learned from Carter Page's House Intel testimony | House to mark up foreign intel reform law | FBI can't access Texas shooter's phone | Sessions to testify at hearing amid Russia scrutiny Former Yahoo CEO subpoenaed to appear before Congress MORE (R-S.D.), the No. 3 Republican in the Senate. And he predicted opponents will not have the votes to strip it out. 

"I think you can expect that that there'll be some procedural attempts to strip that out, but I don't think the votes are going to be there," he told reporters Tuesday. 

"I think it is going to be a very hard vote for people to vote to say as a matter of policy and practice in this country that we're going to allow taxes to go into place — we're going to allow states to impose taxes on the Internet."

Thune, one of the key sponsors of a long-term ban, said many outside groups have been whipping the vote, which he predicted would be "fairly close."

"If the customs conference report moves, and I think it will move soon, I believe that the Internet tax moratorium will be included in it as it was reported from the House," he said. 

The 1998 ban prevents states from taxing the monthly bills that customers pay to access the Internet. But it has required a series of updates over the past decade and a half, with the most recent extension coming in December's year-end spending bill. 

A large group of lawmakers has pushed to remove the sunset date for good. They successfully inserted the provision into a conference report on separate customs legislation, which the House approved last month. 

Others, however, have looked to use the proposal as vehicle to move a separate and more controversial Internet sales tax bill, which would give states increased authority to collect taxes from their citizens when they makes online purchases from a retailer located outside the state. 

Proponents of tying the two proposals together, led by Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDems mull big changes after Brazile bombshell After Texas shooting, lawmakers question whether military has systemic reporting problem Bipartisan group of lawmakers aim to reform US sugar program MORE (D-Ill.), have vowed to use a procedural move to try and strip the Internet access tax ban from the customs bill. 

To be successful, Durbin and others would have to prevent their opponents from rounding up 60 votes. Last month, Durbin expressed confidence that he already had the vote to use that procedural move.