With lawmakers in Washington no closer to ending a stalemate that’s shuttered food banks, Head Start programs, and death benefits to military families, it’s looking increasingly likely that they’ll need some sort of divine intervention.
Senate Chaplain Barry Black has been using his daily opening prayers since before the shutdown began to admonish lawmakers for their actions, and pray that they soon resolve their differences. His Wednesday rebuke was particularly searing.
“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,” said Black, a Seventh-day Adventist and retired vice admiral, on the Senate floor Wednesday. “Cover our shame with the robe of your righteousness.”
It’s not the first time Black has turned to God on the shutdown. Last week he sharply criticized Congress for its “madness,” and prayed to “deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.”
One of the gravest consequences to come out of the shutdown has been the abrupt suspension of a $100,000 “death gratuity” given immediately to families of fallen soldiers until survivors benefits can take effect. Families of 26 service members have not received the benefit since the shutdown began on Oct. 1, triggered by a budget impasse over President Obama’s signature health care law.
The call to halt Obamacare has become more muted as the shutdown drags on, replaced instead by a GOP call to rein in overall government spending.
Black said he remains optimistic based on his daily interactions with lawmakers and on the feedback he’s received.
“I believe that my responsibility is to plant seeds and to water them,” he said on MSNBC Wednesday. “I am convinced that my labors, my prayers, my interactions with our lawmakers, my opportunity to serve them will bring a productive harvest.”
“I’m sending you a large bag of Miracle-Gro,” said host Thomas Roberts.