Champion of civil rights, the ‘first friend’ to Clinton
Divisions by some in party over $1.9T package remain
ATLANTA — Vernon Jordan, 85, who rose from humble beginnings in the segregated South to become a champion of civil rights before reinventing himself as a Washington insider and corporate influencer, died Monday, his daughter said.
“My father passed away last night around 10p surrounded by loved ones his wife and daughter by his side,” Jordan’s daughter, Vickee Jordan Adams, said in a statement released Tuesday to CBS News.
After stints as field secretary for the Georgia NAACP and executive director of the United Negro College Fund, he became head of the National Urban League, becoming the face of Black America’s modern struggle for jobs and justice for more than a decade. He was nearly killed by a racist’s bullet in 1980 before transitioning to business and politics.
His friendship with Bill Clinton took them both to the White House. Jordan was an unofficial Clinton aide, drawing him into controversy during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Jordan “never gave up on his friends or his country,” Clinton said Tuesday.
“From his instrumental role in desegregating the University of Georgia in 1961, to his work with the NAACP, the Southern Regional Council, the Voter Education Project, the United Negro College Fund, and the National Urban League, to his successful career in law and business, Vernon Jordan brought his big brain and strong heart to everything and everybody he touched. And he made them better,” Clinton and his wife, Hillary, said in a
Former President Barack Obama said that “like so many others, Michelle and I benefited from Vernon Jordan’s wise counsel and warm friendship — and deeply admired his tireless fight for civil rights.”
After growing up in the Jim Crow South and living much of his life in a segregated America, Jordan took a strategic view of race issues.
“My view on all this business about race is never to get angry, no, but to get even,” Jordan said in a July 2000 New York Times interview. “You don’t take it out in anger; you take it out in achievement.”
Although Jordan held no official role in the Clinton White House, he was highly influential and had such labels as the “first friend.” He approached Colin Powell about becoming secretary of state and encouraged Clinton to pass NAFTA in 1993.
Jordan also secured a job at Revlon for Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern whose sexual
encounters with the president spawned a scandal.
Jordan’s actions briefly drew the attention of federal prosecutors investigating Clinton’s actions, but he ultimately was not mentioned in a final report issued by special prosecutor Ken Starr.
In 1971, after the death of Whitney Young Jr., Jordan was named the fifth president of the National Urban League. The high-profile position landed him in the crosshairs of a racist in May 1980 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Jordan was shot with a hunter’s rifle outside his hotel after returning from dinner following a speaking engagement.
Jordan had five surgeries during his three-month recovery in the hospital.
Joseph Paul Franklin, an avowed white supremacist who targeted Blacks and Jews in a cross-country killing spree from 1977 to 1980, later admitted to shooting Jordan. He was never prosecuted in Jordan’s case, but was put to death in 2013 for another slaying in Missouri.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the U.S. expects to take delivery of enough coronavirus vaccines for all adults by the end of May, two months earlier than anticipated, as his administration announced that drugmaker Merck & Co. will help produce rival Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved shot.
With the bolstered supply, Biden also announced he would be using the powers of the federal government to direct all states to prioritize vaccinating teachers, and said the federal government would provide the doses directly through its pharmacy program. He challenged states to administer at least one dose of the vaccine to all educators by the end of March as part of his administration’s efforts to reopen more schools across the nation.
“We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May,” said Biden, who likened the partnership between the two drug companies to the spirit of national cooperation during World War II.
Biden’s twin announcements quickly raised expectations for when the nation could safely emerge from the pandemic with the promise of additional vaccines, but it highlighted the looming challenge facing the nation: successfully putting those doses into arms.
Even as he expressed optimism, Biden quickly tempered the outlook for a return to life as it was before the virus hit.
“I’ve been cautioned not to give an answer to that because we don’t know for sure,” Biden said, before adding that his hope was sometime before “this time next year.”
Biden’s speech was set against the backdrop of states across the country moving to relax virus-related restrictions. This comes despite the objections of the White House and the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who have raised alarm about new variants of the virus and pleaded against any relaxation of virus protocols until more Americans are vaccinated. In Texas, GOP Gov. Greg Abbot moved to lift his state’s mask-wearing mandate and a host of other limitations. Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer eased capacity limits on restaurants and both public and residential gatherings.
Fauci has previously said the nation must achieve a vaccination rate of about 80% to reach “herd immunity.” Only about 8% of the population has been fully vaccinated according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though the pace of vaccination has been increasing, with the U.S. setting a new daily record for injections on both Thursday and Friday of last week.
In hopes of increasing vaccinations even further. the Biden administration told governors to make preparations to administer even more doses in the coming weeks. More shots are also heading toward the federally backed program to administer doses in retail pharmacies, which federal officials believe can double or triple their pace of vaccination. More than 800,000 doses of the J&J vaccine will also be distributed this week to pharmacies, on top of the 2.4 million they are now getting of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine supply.
Those pharmacies will be key in getting the vaccines into the arms of teachers particularly in the roughly 20 states where they have not been prioritized for shots that will help reopen schools to better educate students who have been at risk of falling behind during the pandemic and reduce the burden on parents who have had to choose between child care and a job.
“Let’s treat in-person learning as the essential service that it is,” Biden said. Teachers will be able to sign up directly through the participating retail pharmacies in their local area, the administration said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also announced Tuesday that the federal government was increasing the supply of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to states next week to 15.2 million doses per week, up from 14.5 million previously. States will also receive 2.8 million doses of the J&J shot this week.
On a call with governors Tuesday, White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said states should prepare for administering 16-17 million total weekly doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines by the end of March, climbing to 17-18 million weekly by early April. The supply of J&J doses to states, expected to dip after the initial shipment this week, will climb to 4-6 million weekly doses by the end of March and 5-6 million doses weekly through the end of April.
Before the approval of the J&J shot, Biden had suggested that it would take until the end of July to have enough vaccine for every adult in the U.S.
The White House said Merck would devote two plants to the production process. One would make the vaccine and the other would handle inserting the vaccine into vials and ensuring strict quality controls.
Psaki said the Biden administration was using its powers under the Defense Production Act to help Merck retool its manufacturing lines to work on the production.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden urged Senate Democrats on Tuesday to rally behind a $1.9 trillion COVID-relief bill and stood by his proposed $1,400 payments to individuals, even as some party moderates sought to dial back parts of the package.
“He said we need to pass this bill and pass it soon. That’s what the American people sent us here to do, and we have to get America the help it needs,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters, describing a 20-minute conference call Biden had with Democratic senators.
The president’s cry for unity came as Democrats — with no votes to spare in a 50-50 Senate — sorted through lingering divisions over the emerging bill. Those included moderates’ efforts to focus spending more narrowly on those hardest hit by the deadly pandemic and resulting economic contraction.
Biden took to Twitter
to signal he wouldn’t budge from his demand that lawmakers add a fresh $1,400 payment to the $600 that millions of individuals received in December. That new installment comprises nearly a quarter of the overall bill’s cost.
“The fact is that $600 is not enough. The Senate needs to pass the American Rescue Plan and finish the job of delivering $2,000 in direct relief,” Biden wrote in one of his infrequent uses of the social media platform.
The huge relief package is a too-big-to-fail moment for the fledging president, who would be politically staggered if Congress — controlled narrowly by Democrats — failed to deliver. Conquering the virus that’s killed more than 515,000 Americans and flung the economy and countless lives into tailspins is Biden’s top initial priority.
So far, Republicans are following the template they set during Barack Obama’s presidency. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he hoped GOP senators would oppose the bill unanimously, as their House counterparts did early Saturday when that chamber approved its version of the measure.
Democrats of ignoring signs that the economy and the deadly virus’s rampage were beginning to turn around and shunning Republicans. Biden met with 10 GOP senators last month who presented a $600 billion plan, but efforts to find middle ground went nowhere.
“The new administration made a conscious effort to jam us,” McConnell told reporters. “We’ll be fighting this in every way that we can.”
Democrats are using special rules that will let them avoid GOP filibusters that would require them to garner an impossible 60 votes to approve the legislation.
The Senate bill was expected to largely mirror the House-approved package, with the most glaring divergence being the Senate’s dropping of language boosting the federal minimum wage to $15 hourly.
Schumer said Senate debate would commence as soon as Wednesday and predicted, “We’ll have the votes we need to pass the bill.” Democrats want to send a final package to Biden by March 14, when an earlier round of emergency jobless benefits expires.
The bill has hundreds of billions of dollars for schools and colleges, COVID-19 vaccines and testing, mass transit systems, renters and small businesses. It also has money for child care, tax breaks for families with children and assistance for states willing to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income residents.
Two people said Biden told Democrats they must sometimes accept provisions in a large measure that they don’t like. And it was clear there were still moving parts.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, perhaps the Senate’s most conservative Democrat, said he wanted to pare the bill’s $400 weekly emergency unemployment
benefit to $300. That’s the same amount Congress approved last December — on top of regular state benefits — and Manchin said the higher figure would discourage people from returning to work.
“It would be awful for the doors to open up and there’s no one working,” Manchin said of businesses reopening.
Despite every Democrats’ huge leverage because all their votes are needed, none have so far threatened to sink the legislation if they don’t get their way. All are aware of how that would rattle Biden’s presidency and Democrats’ ability to be productive during this Congress.
“We want to get the
biggest, strongest bill that can pass, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Schumer said.
There were indications loose ends were falling into place. In one sign, 11 Democratic senators wrote Biden urging him to use a huge, upcoming infrastructure bill to create regularly paid relief and jobless benefits that would be automatically triggered by economic conditions.
Some progressives had wanted those payments included in the COVID19 bill. Democrats’ push to include it in later legislation suggested an effort to satisfy progressives while avoiding jeopardizing the current package.