"We fully expect that there will be some reactions that are going to try to show [Russian] machoness rather than dealing with [human rights]," the senator said on April 19 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank.
Cardin last year introduced legislation that would ban visas for and freeze the assets of some 60 Russians connected with the Magnitsky case, which has become an international symbol of Russia's human rights failings.
The lawyer died in jail in 2009 at the age of 37 after implicating top Russian officials in an alleged scheme to defraud the government.
Independent investigations found that Magnitsky was repeatedly denied medical care and beaten before his death.
Moscow is currently prosecuting only one low-level prison official in the case, amid allegations of a cover-up.
Independent of the legislation, the U.S. State Department last year imposed visa bans on implicated Russian officials.
In response, Moscow compiled a blacklist of U.S. officials it says violated the rights of two Russian citizens -- a suspected international arms trafficker and a convicted drug smuggler.
Earlier this month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that the enactment of the Magnitsky bill would damage U.S.-Russian relations.
The bill, which has strong bipartisan support, may be voted on as early as this spring.
Its passage has become linked to repealing the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, Cold War-era legislation that has functioned as a symbol of Washington's opposition to Moscow's rights violations.
The Obama administration has pushed for Jackson-Vanik's repeal, which imposes trade restrictions, in order to boost U.S. commerce with Russia.
Legislation on Magnitsky similar to the U.S. bill is also pending in Canada, the United Kingdom, and a number of other Western countries.