OVERNIGHT MONEY: Russia trade bill stands at the ready

The measure heads to the Senate, where there is a push to complete it by year's end. 

The bill would provide permanent normal trade relations for Russia and Moldova, repealing the obsolete Jackson-Vanik law put into place nearly 40 years ago to spur Jewish emigration or face higher tariffs. 

ADVERTISEMENT
The bill also includes language related to human rights in Russia, which specifically calls for denying U.S. visas to Russian officials involved in the 2009 death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, as well as the freezing of any U.S. assets of those officials.

But Democrats said Thursday that the inclusion of the Magnitsky language makes it easy to support the bill, because it is now much more than just a regular trade bill.

Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said Democrats can vote for the bill "with good conscience" because of the Magnitsky language. He and other lawmakers are looking to expand the language to include global human rights violations. 

Retiring Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) said he is happy to leave on the high note.

"It's great that we'll be able to do something with Democrats in the House, Republicans in the House, Democrats in the Senate, Republicans in the Senate and the president of the United States on the same page in support of Russia's accession to the WTO," he said.

Supporters of the bill have argued that the measure helps only U.S. businesses and doesn't provide any additional benefits to Moscow. 

After nearly 20 years, Russia joined the World Trade Organization in August, but Congress couldn't get the bill passed before the elections. 

Meanwhile, Russia threatened to “react toughly” if the human rights legislation passes. 

Despite the threat, business groups and other supporters say Moscow will have to follow the WTO rules they agreed to or face the consequences of trade cases. 


WHAT ELSE TO WATCH FOR

It's about that time: President Obama will wrap up a week of meetings on the "fiscal cliff" on Friday morning with congressional leaders at the White House.

He has met with labor leaders and some of the nation's top chief executives as part of the effort to lay the groundwork for, at least, a short-term solution to the automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to go into effect in January. 

There wasn't much chatter on Capitol Hill on Thursday as to specifics of what might be discussed but it is pretty clear that the president and Republicans will probably draw their lines in the sand on taxes — the White House says the top 2 percent can handle a tax increase, while GOP leaders such as House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will stick to his stance that no one should see a tax increase next year. 

There seems to be some consensus that lawmakers will aim to reach an agreement before the Christmas holiday and then work on a comprehensive package of tax and entitlement reform next year. 


BREAKING NEWS

Dire straits: The U.S. Postal Service announced Thursday that it lost a record $15.9 billion in the most recent fiscal year, and urged Congress to wrap up its work on a postal overhaul before the end of the year.

The losses were largely driven by two separate defaults, in which the agency failed to pay a combined $11.1 billion in required prepayments for retiree healthcare. 

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said that his agency was doing what it could to stay afloat, given legal restrictions, but that the almost $16 billion in losses illustrated just how serious the need was for congressional action.

“It’s critical that Congress do its part and pass comprehensive legislation before they adjourn this year to move the Postal Service further down the path toward financial health,” Donahoe said. 


ECONOMIC INDICATORS

Industrial Production-Capacity utilization: The Federal Reserve will release its October report on Friday showing the physical output of the nation's factories, mines and utilities. The monthly report also provides a measure of capacity utilization. 


WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— CFTC appeals court decision to halt derivatives rules
— GOP tension emerges over SEC, CFTC merger idea
— House report on failure of MF Global calls for merger of SEC, CFTC
— GOP Rep. Scalise elected RSC chairman, pledges to pull leadership 'to the right’
— Bernanke: Upward housing market still faces challenges
Mortgage rates dip to historic lows
— Murray: Can't guarantee 2014 budget
— Hurricane Sandy drives up first-time jobless claims


Catch us on Twitter: @VickoftheHill, @peteschroeder, @elwasson and @berniebecker3

For tips and feedback email vneedham@thehill.com