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Public Statements

Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013 - Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Madam President, over the last few days, I have spent a good chunk of my waking hours trying to find some common ground, some opportunity to bring both sides together. I have repeatedly put specifics on paper and provided those specifics to the proponents of this legislation. By and large--and I believe there is a little bit of a Senate code when one talks around here--the response has been: They have 75 votes, and that is kind of it. But I have been trying to deal with the issues that have been raised.

For example, my colleague from Illinois sincerely believes that unless Oregon's small businesses are not coerced into enforcing out-of-state laws, that Oregon is going to become a small business haven. He says Oregon has to be coerced by this bill or it is going to be a small business haven. I would just say to my colleagues that is not the reality of what we see in the Pacific Northwest every day.

Washington State has a sales tax. Oregon does not have a sales tax. So if my colleague from Illinois was right, we would be seeing moving vans all the time coming across the borders from Washington State to Oregon because somehow Oregon was going to be an Internet tax haven.

We all know States rights means States take different approaches with respect to this issue. To me, what we ought to be looking at are approaches that bring people together. So I offered Senator Durbin a chance to test out this question of whether Oregon would be an Internet tax haven and try it out for a period of time. That was unacceptable.

So now this amendment includes the Pryor-Blunt legislation, which, for example, says we ought to reauthorize the Internet Tax Freedom Act. Colleagues, I wrote that legislation. It says in section 2 you can't have discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce. The Internet tax freedom proposal Senator Durbin seeks to include in his base bill is basically trying to add some sugar into a very bitter cup of coffee. He is taking our legislation, which has been a real boost for the economy, and trying to put it into this very bitter cup of coffee that is his legislation.

I just don't think that makes a lot of sense. This bill is going to make it possible--the base bill--for discriminatory treatment of electronic commerce because online retailers in communities across the country are going to be subjected to burdens that brick-and-mortar retailers would not be subject to.

I know my colleague from Montana wishes to speak on this as well, but I would just close by saying I will have to object to the Senator's request because this particular amendment, including the bill I wrote, in effect, is akin to adding sugar to the bitter cup of coffee. The base bill offered by the proponents undermines the Internet Tax Freedom Act by allowing the very discrimination on electronic commerce the Internet Tax Freedom Act was all about.

This effort needs more time to bring about some common ground. I will close with this. Our technology policy over the last few years has been built on three kinds of principles:

No. 1, we would take voluntary steps. We wouldn't use coercion. This bill uses coercion. In fact, it was the voluntary steps, starting with some of the first laws that encouraged investment in social media, that were so important. This bill moves away from any semblance of voluntariness.

No. 2, I have outlined the discriminatory aspect of the legislation where we are going to have brick-and-mortar retailers not have to do certain things that online people do.

Finally, No. 3, what is just breathtaking is this gives foreign retailers a leg up on a Montana business, on an Oregon business, and, frankly, it gives a leg up on every business in the United States because the foreign retailer will not be subjected to what a business in our country is subjected to.

I know my colleague from Montana wants to speak on this issue as well, so I am going to maintain my reservation so my colleague can speak, but I will have to object.

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