WASHINGTON — Calling it an assault on freedom and the little guy, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, voiced strong opposition on Tuesday to Congress considering legislation to require most Internet merchants to collect taxes on out-of-state purchases.

WASHINGTON — Calling it an assault on freedom and the little guy, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, voiced strong opposition on Tuesday to Congress considering legislation to require most Internet merchants to collect taxes on out-of-state purchases.


"We just had a wave election where Republicans retook the Senate and the American people said they are unhappy with the direction we are on," Cruz said. "It would be the height of lunacy if one of the first things the Republican majority in the House did was join with Harry Reid in passing a $340 billion tax increase on online retailers."


Cruz was the main attraction at a press event on Capitol Hill where several lawmakers as well as leaders of conservative groups spoke against the "Marketplace Fairness Act" that has been championed in the House by Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers.


House Speaker John Boehner has previously signaled that he does not want the bill to come to the floor this year since the House Judiciary Committee has not voted on the bill yet. A similar version cleared the Senate, 69-27, on May 6, 2013. Proponents of the bill have suggested that it could become law if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., attached it to legislation reauthorizing a ban on taxing Internet access that is favored by House Republicans.


Cruz and other opponents spoke out against such action during the "lame duck session," saying it should be left to the next Congress to consider.


Womack responded that Congress has an opportunity to act now to spare brick-and-mortar retailers another Christmas shopping season where they are at a disadvantage to Internet merchants who do not have to collect a sales tax at the time of purchase.


"I continue to speak for a lot of the retail community out there that needs a voice in Washington. They just want a level playing field," Womack said. "It is really tragic right now on the eve of the greatest shopping season of the year for our merchants that we would continue to put them at a disadvantage."


Cruz said that Womack’s legislation is aimed at helping retail giants and not the mom and pop startups. Most of the "big box" stores as well as Internet merchants like Amazon already collect sales taxes because they have a physical presence in each state. Those corporations, Cruz contends, want to snuff out competition from small startups by forcing them to collect sales taxes across 9,600 state and local jurisdictions.


"That is a burden directed at the little guy," Cruz said.


Womack said that the arguments being raised have all been debunked or addressed within the legislation. There are software programs available — and required in the legislation — to make it simple for Internet merchants to comply, and small Internet merchants are exempted until sales reach a reasonably high threshold, he said.


The Texas Conservative Tea Party Coalition issued a statement criticizing Cruz for his opposition to "e-fairness" legislation.


"For the life of me, I just can’t understand why Senator Cruz thinks a small business in Texas should be forced to play by a different set of rules that an out-of-state Internet retailer. That’s not fair and it is certainly not conservative," said Duane Ham, executive director of the coalition.