Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:  Susan Collins
Date: April 25, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, let me express my frustration and dismay over the objection that has been lodged against considering a very reasonable amendment to this bill.

This is a bipartisan amendment. It is offered by the Independent Senator from Maine, Mr. King, and me. It has widespread support. It is a very reasonable amendment that simply gives businesses more time to comply with the provisions of this bill. It is consistent with the purpose of this bill and does not undermine it in any way. It simply recognizes that 90 days is simply too short a period of time for implementation of the software and other changes that would be required under this legislation.

I think there is, however, a broader issue. This is a bipartisan bill--a bill that I am a cosponsor of, a bill that has widespread support, a bill that the Governor of Maine strongly supports because of the revenue it would bring in that is now lost to the State even though it is owed to the State.

It is a bill that has widespread support among Main Street retailers who see customers come into their stores, take up the time of their clerks, and then whip out an iPhone to order the exact same merchandise online solely for the purpose of evading the sales tax that is due on the item.

So this bill is a matter of fairness. It imposes no new taxes. In fact, there is a prohibition on taxing the Internet. As Senator Alexander has pointed out and Senator Durbin has said--and Senator Enzi, who has worked so many years on this bill--this bill has widespread, bipartisan support.

Here we are stymied by a small group of Members on both sides of the aisle who will not even allow us to debate and consider a bipartisan amendment that simply delays the effective date of this bill by a year to allow businesses more time to make the software changes they need to make in order to ensure they are in full compliance with the bill.

We have reached a very disappointing and unsatisfactory result if that is where we are. If there is opposition to our amendment, I am sure the opponents would have every opportunity to speak against our amendment and to vote against our amendment. But to not allow our amendment to be considered, which is completely relevant to this bill, an amendment that simply alters the date of implementation, is beyond my comprehension. I do not understand it. I think it is wrong. I think it is what frustrates the American people. It is an example of the kind of gridlock that is very frustrating to the American public.

The only good thing I can say about this gridlock is it is bipartisan in this case. But that is a very small comfort indeed. So, again, all our amendment would have done, had we been allowed to consider it, is put a 1-year delay in the final implementation and also say implementation could not begin during the retailers' busiest time of the year; that is, the holiday season.

This was intended to provide adequate lead time for retailers to undertake the complex steps that may be needed: the software changes, the training, et cetera. Retailers are going to have to begin early anyway, but with this 1-year delay we know they will be prepared to fully implement the Marketplace Fairness Act.

Again, it is very disappointing to me that this commonsense amendment that is designed to improve the underlying bill cannot be considered at this time. I have been very pleased to work with my colleague from Maine, Senator King, on this amendment. He may have some comments as well. I also wish to thank the sponsors of the bill for working very hard with us on this legislation.

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Ms. COLLINS. Madam President, I feel compelled to respond to the comments of my good friend and colleague from Montana. First, let me say I am sorry to learn of his decision to leave the Senate, to retire from the Senate, because I have enjoyed working with him over the years.

I do want to make several points. Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming, who came to the Senate the same year I did in 1997, has been talking about this bill for at least a decade. He has introduced it many times before. There has been ample opportunity for there to be consideration by the committee, and the committee chose not to consider his bill. This is not a new concept in any way. It has been talked about and debated at length over the past decade.

Moreover, I would note the amendment I have offered, along with my colleague from Maine, does not in any way change the basic thrust of this legislation. In fact, both Senator King and I are cosponsors of the underlying bill.

If this bill were so problematic for retailers across the country, why would it have the support of so many retailers across the country? Why would it have the support of national organizations representing retailers across the country?

This is not a complicated bill in concept. What it says is if a retailer is selling into another State, it needs to collect the sales tax and remit it to that State. That is not a complicated concept.

This issue has been litigated before the Supreme Court, another indication it is not a new concept, that it has been carefully considered. The idea that somehow this bill has sprung out of nowhere without proper consideration is not supported by its long history.

In fact, during the budget resolution when we voted on this measure and it received such a strong vote--I think it was something like 70 to 75 votes--I went over to Mike Enzi and congratulated him because he finally had gotten a preliminary vote on legislation he had been working on for literally more than a decade.

I don't think this is a complicated concept. It is not creating a new tax; it is not imposing a new tax; it is not taxing the Internet. All it is doing is making sure States that have sales taxes receive the revenue they are owed. That is not a complicated concept.

Is it going to require retailers to make changes in their software, particularly large retailers that are selling all over the country? Keep in mind, this bill exempts small retailers. It exempts those with sales of under a million dollars, so they are not affected at all. Is it going to require some changes to be made in software and training by large retailers? Yes, it is. That is why we have offered this commonsense amendment to improve but not change the underlying bill that says rather than giving 90 days for businesses to comply with the sale, let's give them a year so they can fully get the software changes made and installed, their staff trained, and ensure full, complete, and accurate compliance. That is all the Collins-King amendment does. It does not in any way change the thrust of this bill or the underlying provisions of this bill. It simply allows more time for compliance.

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