Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) said this week that he supports joining replacing longstanding human rights sanctions on Russia with new human rights sanctions on Russian officials.
Yesterday, we reported that Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) came out this week for passing the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011 together with repealing the 1974 Jackson-Vanik law and granting Russia Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status. At the March 27 SFRC business meeting, Kerry also endorsed the idea of combining the Magnitsky Act with the PNTR bill and a repeal of the Jackson Vanik law, according to a transcript of the meeting obtained by The Cable today.
At the meeting, Kerry agreed to bring up the Magnitsky bill for committee approval at the next SFRC business meeting in April, according to the transcript. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the main sponsor of the Magnitsky bill, called for the Magnitsky bill and the PNTR bill to be joined on the Senate floor, after the PNTR bill emerges from Sen. Max Baucus's Finance Committee.
"I think the best opportunity for [the Magnitsky bill's] enactment will be in conjunction with PNTR with Russia," Cardin said. "And we have been working with the leadership on both sides of the aisle in both chambers to see how we can do this in the most constructive way.
"I agree with you. I think that is the only way. I think it is the way to move forward," Kerry said. "In good faith, senator, we will move as rapidly as we can, hopefully the minute we're back, but certainly shortly thereafter. I also want to check with Senator Baucus and try to get a sense from Senator Reid about the schedule on the floor for the PNTR and how we proceed.
"But we will join it altogether," Kerry said. "And as I say to you, you've been persistent and tenacious on it, and the time has come."
Lugar told Kerry that he got the sense from his staff that the administration was "very tentative" about moving forward on the Magnitsky bill, so Lugar wanted to make sure the committee was moving expeditiously on the issue.
"And so I simply wanted to indicate that we take this seriously, that this is the time now for them to come to the table as opposed to pushing it off, because it seems to me maybe they might become more serious," Lugar said.
"Fair enough," Kerry replied.