Senator Chuck Grassley says he doubts the Senate will change much in House legislation passed November 16 by a 365-43 vote to grant Russia Permanent Normal Trade Relations.
Unfortunately for U-S farm and trade groups, the House legislation isn't focused solely on trade - it also includes the Magnitsky amendment, which is something of a spiritual successor to the Cold-War-era Jackson-Vanik amendment linking free trade to emigration rights in the Eastern Bloc. Instead of punishing the entire country, which is against WTO rules, the Magnitsky amendment levies personal sanctions on Russian officials responsible for beating Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky to death in 2009, as well as other Russian officials who violate human rights.
Senator Grassley pointed out that currently, having a bill is preferable than the present trade relationship between Russia and the U-S, and that he expects the Senate to pass the legislation so long as it isn't changed too much before the full chamber votes. Passage of the PNTR legislation also lifts sanctions on Moldova, one of Russia's neighbors, and would double US exports to those countries over the next five years.