Although Congress has plenary power under the commerce clause to regulate state taxation of interstate commerce, that power remained virtually unexercised until 1959. As a consequence of the silence of Congress, the task of reconciling the competing interests of states, multistate businesses, and local businesses, and accommodating those interests to the needs of a national economy fell by default to the Supreme Court. The instrumentality available to the Court for dealing with the complex political, fiscal, and economic controversies inherent in state taxation of multistate business was the commerce clause (augmented by due process restrictions and,to a lesser extent, the equal protection clause).
Jerome R. Hellerstein,
State Taxation Under the Commerce Clause: An Historical Perspective,
29 Vanderbilt Law Review
Available at: https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/vlr/vol29/iss2/3