Russia trade bill in the Senate includes fiscal cliff debate

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2012- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., offered President Barack Obama's deficit reduction proposal for a vote on the Senate floor Wednesday, but Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., blocked the motion, calling it a “Republican political stunt.” McConnell offered the package as an amendment to the legislation establishing permanent normal trade relations status (PNTR) with Russia. 

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“The purpose of moving this bill is to protect American jobs,” Reid said on the floor Wednesday afternoon. “Are we going to get serious here and legislate or is this more political stunts the Republican leader is trying to pull today?”

“I can understand why the Majority Leader would rather not vote on it,” McConnell said regarding the White House deficit reduction suggestions presented by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner last week. “It's an unserious proposal,” he said, calling it so “laughable” he knows it would not pass a bare minimum of the Senate. “Not a single Senate Democrat has come forward to support the Geithner proposal.

McConnell also said he would be willing to have a stand-alone vote on the proposal instead of an amendment to other legislation.

In turn, Reid said the proposal presented by Geithner was supposed to be a “private meeting.” 

The Russia PNTR legislation, which includes the Sergei Magnitsky Accountability Act to hold Russian officials accountable for human rights violations, is on a path to approval in the Senate. The only objection is a desire by some, including Senator John Kyl, R-Ariz., to apply the Magnitsky bill to all nations instead of only Russia. 

Since Russia joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in August, American companies have pushed for a standard trade relationship with the country, which requires Congress to repeal the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Amendment.  

The “Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012” passed with an overwhelming vote in the House last month. 

In a conversation with Agri-Pulse, Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse said discussions during a trade mission to promote U.S. agricultural exports to Russia this week “have gone better than anyone had anticipated.”

The trade mission, from Dec. 3-7, began in Moscow on Monday.


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