Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Speech: Marketplace Fairness Act Anniversary

Posted on May 6, 2014

        This colloquy is for the purpose of marking an important day in the Senate because it was on this day one year ago that the Senate overwhelmingly passed the Marketplace Fairness Act.  We did this by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote.  Sixty-nine Senators, including about half of our Republican caucus, twenty-one Republicans, supported an eleven-page bill -- a rarity in this body -- that is about just two words, and the words are "states’ rights."

The Marketplace Fairness Act, simply described, gives states the right to decide for themselves whether to collect or not collect state sales taxes that are already owed.  This ability to collect taxes that are already owed would give states the option to reduce existing taxes, or to avoid a new tax, or to pay for services without raising taxes. 

        The Marketplace Fairness Act closes a tax loophole that prefers some businesses over other businesses and some taxpayers over other taxpayers.  Out-of-state businesses are being subsidized because they don't have to collect sales taxes -- taxes that are owed -- and local businesses do.  As a result, some taxpayers are being subsidized because some pay sales taxes and others do not even though they may owe the taxes.  That is not right, and it is not fair.

This legislation, which passed the Senate one year ago, gives states the option to decide whether to change that.  One of the best ways to lower state taxes is for the federal government to allow states to collect state sales taxes from everyone who owes the tax and not just from some of the people who owe the tax. 

        We have an honor roll of conservatives who do not think states ought to have to play "Mother May I?" with the federal government on this question.  For example, Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union; Art Laffer, President Reagan's favorite economist; Charles Krauthammer; Representative Paul Ryan; Governor Mike Pence, a former Member of the House of Representatives; Governor Chris Christie; former Governor Jeb Bush; former Governor Mitch Daniels; and the late William F. Buckley, not to mention Governor Bill Haslam of the state of Tennessee, agree that recognizing the power of state legislators to make these decisions for themselves is consistent with the tenth amendment and our constitutional framework.

In our state of Tennessee, the Marketplace Fairness Act is an insurance policy against a state income tax. We don't have a state income tax and we don't want a state income tax. 

The House of Representatives has not yet acted on this bill.  The bill that was passed a year ago today by the Senate was an overwhelming bipartisan vote.  We are hopeful that the House will soon either enact our bill, which we have sent to them, or send us their version of the bill so we can confer and send a result to the president of the United States.  

        State and local governments have been waiting on Congress to solve this problem for more than 20 years -- since 1992 when the Supreme Court said Congress has the ultimate power to resolve the issue.  Now is the time to act on this legislation.  We are ready to work with the House to enact that legislation this year. 

In conclusion, I will read the comments of Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union and former chairman of the Florida Republican Party.  When talking about the Marketplace Fairness Act, Mr. Cardenas said,

       “When it comes to state sales tax, it is time to address the area where federally mandated prejudice is most egregious -- the policy towards Internet sales, the decades-old inequity between online and in-person sales as outdated and unfair.”

Again, that was Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, speaking in support of the Marketplace Fairness Act. 

I am pleased that of the four Senators who will be on the floor during this colloquy, two are already here.  I see the Senator from North Dakota, and I see the Senator from Wyoming.  If it is all right with the Senator from Wyoming, I will defer to the Senator from North Dakota.  While the Senator may be a little modest about this -- I hope she is not -- she actually started it all.  She has a better view of the Marketplace Fairness Act than just about anyone because of her service in the state government of North Dakota.  She has an ability to explain in plain and simple language why the fair and right thing to do is to recognize the rights of states to make these decisions for themselves.  Her ability to do that has been a crucial part of our debate and is one of the reasons why we had such overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate. 


I thank the Senator from North Dakota for her eloquent statement and for her leadership.  I am delighted that she has gone from being a caption on a lawsuit to a senator who can help us pass this bill. In just a moment I will yield the leadership of this colloquy to the assistant Democratic leader, but I wish to say a word about the next senator speaking and about Senator Durbin as well.

Senator Mike Enzi is the real pioneer on the Marketplace Fairness Act.  He knows what he is talking about.  He is a shoe store owner from Wyoming.  He knows what it is like for someone to come in and try on a pair of shoes and then go home and order them on the Internet, and disadvantage a small-town owner of a shoe store as compared with an out-of-state business.  He has diligently and systematically led this fight the whole time, and it was due to that diligence that the Senate had this overwhelming bipartisan achievement one year ago today.  I thank him for his leadership.

Now I recognize the assistant Democratic leader.  The truth of the matter is, the way the Senate works, we would never have been able to pass this in the Senate with such fine fashion if it hadn't been for the leadership of the assistant Democratic leader, Senator Durbin of Illinois.  I thank him very much for his leadership and congratulate him for it, and I am glad to turn the leadership of the colloquy over to him. 


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