The Senate Finance Committee approved a similar bill lifting Cold War-era trade restrictions on Russia, and now business and trade groups are pushing for the House and Senate to consider full passage before August recess.
Business Roundtable senior vice president Bill Miller calls the PNTR with Russia "one of [our] top legislative priorities of the year." The group has spent "well into six figures" on a D.C. and countrywide campaign touting the benefits the bill would bring to American businesses, pushing it as a jobs issue.
"Russia is going to be accepted to the World Trade Organization on Aug. 22. The day that becomes official, at that point in time, because the United States does not have a bilateral trade agreement with Russia, U.S. companies will be put at a disadvantage," Miller says.
WTO members have to give each other permanent normal trade relations, so if the PNTR with Russia doesn't pass in Congress, the U.S. would be in violation of WTO rules. That means the U.S. can't benefit from reduced tariffs.
So major companies such as Boeing, Caterpillar and John Deere have been pouring money into ads, and organizations like the BRT and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been lobbying the issue hard.
But will it pass before recess? Miller says he is "cautiously optimistic" and views the calendar, with the looming August recess, the biggest opposition. Unions have also actively opposed the bill.
House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday said President Barack Obama should be taking a more active role in getting the trade bill passed.
"We've got a pretty busy week next week," said Boehner, of the House schedule, when asked if the legislation would be brought to the floor. "If the president really thinks this is an important issue that we ought to deal with, then maybe he ought to be out there making the case for it. I haven't seen that as yet."
Boehner seemed to be trying to goad Obama into taking on the unions, bait he's unlikely to take given there is there is strong Republican support for the bill and a good chance it'll pass the House.
Billy House contributed.
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