Senate panel kills measure to tie Russia trade bill to Syrian arms sales

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Russia has said it isn't signing any new arms deals with Syria, but will continue to abide by existing contracts, including those to refurbish attack helicopters that are alleged to have been used against the regime's opponents. More than 10,000 people are believed to have been killed in the 16-month uprising against President Bashar Assad.

Opponents of Cornyn's measure all said they agreed with its intention but they didn't want to tie down the trade pact with an unrelated issue. The trade bill and attached legislation that would punish Russian human rights abusers with financial and travel sanctions sailed through the panel on a voice vote.

“To put it on this vehicle I think would be counterproductive,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the sponsor of the human rights legislation named after a whistleblowing lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who died in police custody three years ago.

The trade bill now moves to the House Ways and Means Committee, where ranking member Sander Levin (D-Mich.) has said he wants to hold the trade bill on the floor until Russia stops backing Assad.

Panel chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said he expects to have a trade bill ready shortly.

“I welcome the news that the Finance Committee was able to pass bipartisan Russia PNTR legislation today and will carefully study the bill once legislative text is available,” Camp said in a statement. “I intend to have a bill introduced in the next few days and look forward to moving this important jobs bill through the committee on a bipartisan basis as soon as possible. I continue to work with the White House to find a Democratic co-sponsor.”