Russian human rights bill sails through House panel

Russia has vowed to retaliate if the so-called Magnitsky bill becomes law and the White House has expressed its opposition as a result, but U.S. lawmakers say the legislation's passage is a necessary trade-off for their vote in favor of permanent normal trade relations. Without such ties, U.S. companies that do business in Russia would be at a disadvantage.

“Later this year Congress may consider lifting the Jackson-Vanik provisions concerning emigration from Russia and granting Russia Permanent Normal Trade Relations,” said Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee. “But if we were to consider such changes to our trade law, it should be done in conjunction with legislation to address serious human rights violations in Russia.”

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Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), an original co-sponsor of the legislation, for his part used the opportunity to bash the Obama administration.

"Shame on the White House for vigorously opposing such straightforward legislation,” he said. “The human rights situation isn't getting any better in Russia."

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to take up the Magnitsky bill in conjunction with the Senate Finance Committee's vote on trade ties.