U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin was in Nashville with U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper Tuesday to drum up support for Internet sales tax collection and an immigration overhaul.
Durbin is an Illinois Democrat who is sponsoring the Marketplace Fairness Act with Tennessee U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and others. He said Internet businesses have an unfair advantage over brick and mortar shops. He said consumers are using local stores as showrooms to pick a product that they then go buy on the Internet.
Cooper emphasized that this is not a tax increase.
"I hope people look at the substance of the bill. This is not a new law. People already are supposed to be paying this tax," Cooper said.
Consumers are legally obligated to pay sales tax on Internet purchases in states that have the tax, but most do not. The bill would require Internet retailers to collect the tax and send it back to the state where a shopper lives.
Durbin said the money would provide "needed revenue for state and local governments."
Durbin also is one of a bipartisan group of eight senators who crafted a bill to overhaul the U.S. immigration system. Among other things, the bill would strengthen border security, allow tens of thousands of new high- and low-skilled workers into the country, require all employers to check their workers' legal status and provide an eventual path to citizenship for some 11 million people now in the country without permission.
"It really tries to address the immigration problem in an honest and comprehensive way," Durbin said.
On Tuesday he and Cooper were cautiously optimistic about the bill's prospects.
"The national Republican Party knows they are locked out of the White House unless they change their position on immigration," Durbin said.
Cooper said strong support in the Senate would send a signal to the House that "we finally have a chance to break the gridlock."