Senators bring back online sales tax bill

A bipartisan group of senators is taking another crack at online sales tax legislation.

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Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Trump praises law enforcement response to shooting at Illinois business Five dead in shooting at manufacturing plant in Aurora, Illinois MORE (D-Ill.) and Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Congress must move forward on measure dealing with fentanyl GOP advances rules change to speed up confirmation of Trump nominees MORE (R-Tenn.), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziWill Senate GOP try to pass a budget this year? Presumptive benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans are a major win If single payer were really a bargain, supporters like Rep. John Yarmuth would be upfront about its cost MORE (R-Wyo.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (D-N.D.) rolled out the Marketplace Fairness Act on Tuesday, which would give states more power to collect sales taxes from businesses that don't have a physical location within their borders.

"The Marketplace Fairness Act is about supporting the jobs we have in our towns. It is about the people who are our neighbors who work in our local stores," Enzi said in a statement.

"It’s time to give states the right to enforce their own laws without having to get permission from Washington.”

The Senate passed a substantially similar version of the Marketplace Fairness Act in May 2013, by a wide bipartisan margin. But top Republicans in the House opposed the measure, and Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Bill Clinton jokes no one would skip Dingell's funeral: 'Only time' we could get the last word Left flexes muscle in immigration talks MORE (R-Ohio) made sure it never came up for a vote – much to the chagrin of the retail groups that support the proposal.

Supporters both on and off Capitol Hill say the measure would correct an unfair advantage that online retailers have over brick-and-mortar shops. States are currently barred from collecting sales taxes from out-of-state retailers due to a 1992 Supreme Court decision, though Justice Anthony Kennedy suggested last week that the court should revisit that opinion.

But opponents, including prominent conservative groups and lawmakers, have struck a populist tone, casting the bill as essentially a giveaway to K Street, big box stores and Amazon.

"It’s a changed Congress and a new year, but this Marketplace Fairness Act is the same old, tired idea that stalled in the last Congress," said Steve Delbianco of NetChoice, one of those opponents.

Backers of the measure face a more difficult path to even getting the bill passed in the Senate, now that Republicans have taken control of the chamber. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Trump should beware the 'clawback' Congress Juan Williams: America needs radical solutions MORE (R-Ky.) is no fan of the legislation, while his predecessor, Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidConstitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency Klobuchar: 'I don't remember' conversation with Reid over alleged staff mistreatment Dems wary of killing off filibuster MORE (D-Nev.), was one of the measure's biggest champions.

But supporters could try once more to pair the online sales tax measure with an extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act, a relatively noncontroversial measure barring taxes on online access that is set to expire at the end of September. Senate sponsors of the Marketplace Fairness Act tried a similar tactic last year, but were still unable to get the measure to President Obama's desk. 

House Judiciary Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteIt’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling House GOP probe into FBI, DOJ comes to an end MORE (R-Va.) has been working on his own proposal, which would levy taxes based on where the retailer – not the customer – is based. But retail groups have already panned that proposal.