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Coburn, Paul Try to Gum Up Online Sales Tax Bill

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Procedurally, Durbin and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., appear to have the votes to avoid touching any of the tax code changes. Seventy-four senators voted earlier today in favor of the motion to proceed to the sales tax measure, which is backed by most senators from states with their own sales taxes. Though the original tally showed 75 senators in favor, Paul later reversed his vote after discovering he accidentally voted in favor of the motion. Coburn also opposed moving the bill forward.

The trouble, as is often the case, is time. If the Democratic leaders push forward without allowing amendments, the cloture vote to limit debate on the bill itself wouldn’t happen until Friday morning, setting up the possibility that senators opposing the bill might delay the arrival of a weeklong recess.

Indeed, Reid told senators Wednesday that he would delay the start of next week’s scheduled recess in order to finish the bill.

“I caution my colleagues, the Senate will stay in session until we finish this legislation, whether that happens today, tomorrow, Friday or Saturday,” Reid said during his opening remarks on the floor Wednesday

Supporters say that the bill would help level the playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers in states with sales taxes who currently see some customers using retail spaces as showrooms only to then go on the Internet and purchase the same product from an out-of-state retailer without paying the sales tax.

Some Republicans oppose the legislation on fiscal conservative grounds, while the majority of senators from states without their own sales taxes have criticized the plan.

For instance, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen filed an amendment Wednesday that would keep states like her home state of New Hampshire that do not have sales taxes out of the bill’s reach.

“The Senate’s decision to fast-track this bill was a bad one and that is making these amendments necessary,” Shaheen said in a statement. “The Internet sales tax legislation is bad for New Hampshire small businesses and our country’s economy as a whole.”

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