News that military families aren't receiving death benefits or being reimbursed for burial costs has sparked outrage.
WASHINGTON — Senate Chaplain Barry Black is frustrated with his flock.
As the federal government shutdown entered its ninth day Wednesday, Black delivered a scathing rebuke in his morning prayer and tied it to the news that death benefits to military families are not being paid during the budget standoff.
"Lord, when our federal shutdown delays payments of death benefits to the families of children dying on faraway battlefields, it's time for our lawmakers to say 'enough is enough'," Black said. "Cover our shame with the robe of your righteousness. Forgive us, reform us and make us whole."
It's the latest in a series of sharply worded prayers that Black, a former chief of Navy chaplains, has offered since the shutdown began Oct. 1. Black's messages stand out even more because he says the prayer every day in the Senate chamber, usually when there are at least a few senators standing in front of him.
"You must play the position on the board," Black said Wednesday in an MSNBC interview about his shutdown-related prayers.
The chaplain said his job is to "plant seeds and water them," describing his purpose in the past couple of weeks, and added that he is hopeful his words aren't falling on deaf ears.
"You trust the law of reaping and sowing," Black said in his TV interview.
The news that military families are not receiving a $100,000 death benefit or being reimbursed for burial expenses sparked outrage on Capitol Hill and beyond. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday an agreement was reached by the non-profit Fisher House Foundation will provide funding until the shutdown ends.
The issue hits hits close to home for Black, a retired Navy rear admiral, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former Navy pilot and Vietnam-era prisoner of war.
"Shouldn't we be ashamed?" McCain asked on the Senate floor Tuesday.
The Fisher House Foundation offered Tuesday to give military families an advance grant to make up for the death benefit and other expenses not being covered in the shutdown. Ken Fisher, CEO of the foundation, worked with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., upon hearing the plight of military families.
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