Congressmen Back Alexander on Campaign Trail, Not on Internet Tax Trail

Known as an elder statesman among Tennessee politicians, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander easily snatched up all the House members he wanted to support his 2014 re-election campaign. But Chris Carroll reports that many of those same conservative allies are ambivalent or even critical of the former governor’s top legislative priority.
Alexander is shepherding an unusual bill for a keep-taxes-low Volunteer State Republican. The Marketplace Fairness Act would allow states to force Internet retailers to do what brick-and-mortar businesses have done for ages: Collect sales taxes on every transaction and give the money to state and local governments.
Or, in Alexander’s words, give states the option to get “a tax that is already owed.”
But leading fiscal conservatives, including U.S. Reps. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Tom Graves of Georgia, describe it as the scourge of small-government advocates: a new tax.
“The last thing we should do is raise new taxes on hard-working Americans who are already struggling in the Obama economy,” Graves said last week. Meanwhile, Blackburn put it bluntly: “There’s nothing fair about the Marketplace Fairness Act.”
As the 72-year-old Alexander attempts to dissuade potential tea party challengers in his bid for re-election, in-state opposition to his pet bill may undermine claims that he can still get things done and satisfy an increasingly conservative Tennessee electorate.
“Is it a liability for Alexander? It’s not clear what the public thinks on this,” Vanderbilt University political science professor Joshua Clinton said. “As a challenger, you may get some traction in the Republican primary.”
Alexander has no challengers to date. To help keep it that way, he added every Tennessee Republican House member (except scandal-plagued U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais) to his campaign team late last year. So far they aren’t helping him on this one.
“We have no formal position on the legislation at this time,” said Tiffany McGuffie, a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Phil Roe.
The bill is expected to pass the Senate this week; earlier this year, a test vote garnered 75 supporters. But in the House, where a tea party philosophy reigns, the Marketplace Fairness Act faces an uphill battle if Alexander’s own delegation is any indication.
“We don’t need the federal government mandating additional taxes on Tennessee families and businesses,” Blackburn said. “The American people have been taxed enough.”

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