(USA TODAY) 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 stand-off.
"Lord, when our federal shutdown delays payments of death benefits to the families of children dying on far-away 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 news that military families are not receiving a $100,000 death gratuity or being reimbursed for burial expenses has sparked outrage on Capitol Hill and beyond. It's something that 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 has offered to give military families an advance grant until the government can provide the payments. The service group for veterans says it will also cover flights, hotels and other incidentals for family members. Ken Fisher, CEO of the foundation, worked with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., upon hearing the plight of military families.