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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Vanik of Jackson-Vanik Fame Dies

APCharles Vanik
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Former U.S. Representative Charles Vanik, who was a co-sponsor of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a measure intended to force the Soviet Union to allow more Jews to emigrate, died last week at his home in Jupiter, Florida. He was 94.

His Aug. 30 death was announced by Mark Talisman, his former chief of staff. No cause of death was given.

An often outspoken liberal Democratic congressman from Cleveland, Vanik served in Congress from 1955 to 1981. He held several other public offices, from Cleveland municipal judge to Ohio state senator.

In 1974, Vanik along with Senator Henry Jackson, Democrat from Washington who died in 1983, sponsored an amendment to the Trade Act of 1974, which President Gerald Ford signed into law. The amendment effectively denies unconditional normal trade relations to certain countries that had nonmarket economies and that restricted emigration rights.

In response, the Soviet Union allowed more freedom of emigration, particularly to Jews, who had faced official prejudice.

Emigration of Soviet Jews did increase in the years after the amendment passed, but slowed to a trickle in the 1980s and became a major source of friction between the United States and the Soviet Union.

In 1988, five years after Jackson died, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev urged that the amendment be scrapped, saying: "Why should the dead hold onto the coattails of the living? I mean the Jackson-Vanik amendment. One of them is already physically dead. The other is politically dead."

Vanik countered: "Lenin has been dead for a long time, and they still live under his guidance," The New York Times reported. But he added that the amendment could be waived if Moscow continued making progress on emigration. U.S. President George Bush did waive the amendment in December 1990, a year before the Soviet Union collapsed.

The Jackson-Vanik amendment is still on the books. President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials have criticized Washington for failing to repeal it, saying the refusal to do so undermined trust between the two nations.

This year, U.S. Representative Tom Lantos, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called it a "relic of the Cold War" and said it should be scrapped.

Before his public career, Vanik was a lawyer. His father and grandfather had been butchers, and on flights to Washington Vanik would often carry along a package of sausage made in Cleveland.

He met his future wife, Betty, when he was in the Navy and she was a Navy nurse. She survives him, along with a daughter, Phyllis, of Jupiter; a son, John, of Mayfield Heights, Ohio; and two grandchildren.