"It's important to remember that the rule of law in another country is vital, otherwise investment is perilous," said Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee. "The Magnitsky legislation was added here in part in recognition that when you talk about trade, you have to look at a fuller picture," the Michigan congressman said.
But passage of the human rights provision could spike tensions with Moscow at a time when the United States and Russia already are at odds over issues including missile defense, Syria's civil war and Iran's nuclear ambitions.
After the vote, the Russian Foreign Ministry called the Magnitsky provision "a defiantly unfriendly and provocative attack. The congressmen did not listen to our repeated warnings that such a step will negatively affect the general atmosphere of Russian-American relations and will not remain without a tough response from our side."
The Obama administration has said that while it does not object to the Magnitsky provision, it would have preferred that the trade legislation be taken up on its own. The White House policy statement on the bill refers generally to the need to promote respect for human rights around the world and says the administration will continue to work with Congress to support those seeking a free and democratic future in Russia.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.