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Public Statements

Marketplace Fairness Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, today the Senate is voting on whether to take a few more inches off the little guy. I say that because we can tell what this debate is all about by looking at the morning newspaper. All over those newspapers we saw ads taken out by some of the biggest businesses in the country. It is pretty easy to see why. It is because with this vote for the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act, what we have is big businesses being given the ability to force--force, mind you--new regulations onto the startups, onto the small businesses. That is what this bill has always been about.

The big businesses have physical presence. They already pay taxes. The people whom we have said we care about, for the last 15 years, are the startups, the people who are just trying to get off the ground, who have the dream of one day being big. With this proposal that we will vote on in an hour, I fear what we are going to do is crush a lot of those startups, a lot of those small businesses, because not only will they have new regulations, those small businesses will have new legal regimes, new audits by out-of-State regulators, new legislators, new Governors, new court systems, new accountants, new software, new consultants, and new lawyers. What I hope we will do is ensure, as this process goes forward, that we truly think through the implications of what is being done because on every count it is coercive and discriminatory in nature. It, in fact, gives a leg up to foreign retailers. It, in effect, repudiates a lot of what we have done over the last 15 years to build a sensible policy that will ensure what I call prosperity for both bricks and clicks.

I am sure that is what the Presiding Officer of the Senate wants. It is what we want in Oregon. We want our brick-and-mortar stores to prosper. We want our online stores to prosper. What this bill does is it precipitously overturns the law of the land, the law of the land upheld by the Supreme Court. It would, in unprecedented fashion, stipulate that State and local governments have taxing authorities over businesses that are located thousands and thousands of miles away.

The sponsors are quick to point out that the Court allowed that Congress could enact this sort of extraterritorial taxation. But as the Senate has seen again and again, just because government can doesn't mean government should.

We are going to continue this debate. It will not be done today. One of the central discussion points in this debate going forward will be the damage this bill, in its present form, does to the idea of State sovereignty. Proponents of the bill say the measure is about promoting States rights, but the reality is it is a coercive affront to State sovereignty. If any State does not wish to subject their business to out-of-State government tax collectors, the MFA tells them in effect: Get lost. The MFA enables the State of Indiana or the State of South Dakota to require online businesses located in New Hampshire to collect sales taxes on their behalf. I will repeat that. This so-called Marketplace Fairness Act could require New Hampshire, a State that does not have a sales tax--require New Hampshire businesses to collect sales taxes for goods and services provided to consumers in Indiana and South Dakota and send that money to those States. It enables California and New York to collect taxes from businesses located in Florida or Texas.

Finally, since I know we are in morning business, I think this steers the Internet toward a dangerous path. It would, in effect, endorse the notion that Internet entities should be required to enforce laws outside their home jurisdiction. Foreign countries have long pressed that notion. Foreign countries have specifically pushed that notion, that the Internet ought to cede to their control. As it is already, many countries are seeking to put the United Nations in charge of the Internet's regulator-in-chief, and essentially, if we look at the philosophical foundation of this proposal, it endorses that world view.

The Senate is being asked to consider schemes to allow States and localities to essentially nationalize their taxes, but tomorrow the Senate may be asked to consider similar schemes to enforce law and regulations. I will tell you what truly concerns me about this is it could be laws and regulations about content and other issues that are important to the powerful and well-connected. Make no mistake about it, that is who is pushing this bill today.

Open those morning newspapers and it was not the little guy, the person who does not have PACs and big political committees who was buying ads in the morning newspapers, it was the powerful and the well-connected. It seems to me the last thing this body should do is jeopardize the democratizing power of the Internet and technology through legislation such as this.

I believe the substance of this bill is deeply flawed.

I know there have been efforts to improve it.

I see my colleague from Illinois. He wanted to take the bill I wrote years ago, the Internet tax freedom legislation, along with colleagues from both sides of the aisle, and he wanted to put it into this bill. The Internet Tax Freedom Act runs contrary to this bill because this bill allows discrimination.

It specifically allows online retailers to do things that would not be required for offline retailers. The offline retailer doesn't have to chase somebody across the country and try to figure out where they are going to consume a particular product. We ask for things from online retailers that we do not ask from offline retailers.

I understand why the Senator from Illinois wanted to take a bill that has been a big success for both bricks-and-clicks retailers and put it into this bill. In effect, I compared it to trying to dump sugar into a very bitter cup of coffee.

We cannot get healthy with this bill in its present form. It is a deeply flawed piece of legislation. This debate is going to continue.

I urge colleagues to vote no on the bill.

I yield the floor.

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