U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. / Mark Humphrey / File / Associated Press
WASHINGTON - 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 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 Brentwood and Tom Graves of Georgia, describe it as the scourge of small-government advocates: a new tax. Blackburn put it bluntly: "There's nothing fair about the Marketplace Fairness Act."