Baltimore Sun

Champion of civil rights, the ‘first friend’ to Clinton

Divisions by some in party over $1.9T package remain

- By Jeff Martin and Errin Haines

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

statement.

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.

McConnell accused

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.

 ?? MARCY NIGHSWANDE­R/AP 1993 ?? Then-President Bill Clinton, left, and Vernon Jordan on the course at the Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs, Massachuse­tts.
MARCY NIGHSWANDE­R/AP 1993 Then-President Bill Clinton, left, and Vernon Jordan on the course at the Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs, Massachuse­tts.
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 ?? DOUG MILLS/THE NEW YORK TIMES ?? President Joe Biden delivers an address from the White House in which he announced a partnershi­p between pharmaceut­ical companies Merck and Johnson & Johnson to produce more of J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine.
DOUG MILLS/THE NEW YORK TIMES President Joe Biden delivers an address from the White House in which he announced a partnershi­p between pharmaceut­ical companies Merck and Johnson & Johnson to produce more of J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine.
 ?? ANNA MONEYMAKER/THE NEW YORK TIMES ?? Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, seen Tuesday, said Senate debate on President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronaviru­s relief bill would start as soon as Wednesday. Democrats want to send a final package to the president by March 14.
ANNA MONEYMAKER/THE NEW YORK TIMES Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, seen Tuesday, said Senate debate on President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronaviru­s relief bill would start as soon as Wednesday. Democrats want to send a final package to the president by March 14.

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