House chaplain criticizes lawmakers over failure to unite against pandemic

Margaret Grun Kibben, the chaplain of the U.S. House, delivered a searing rebuke of lawmakers during her opening prayer in the chamber on Wednesday, saying they had “missed” the opportunity to rise above partisanship and unite against the pandemic.

The remarks by the chaplain came as the House is expected to pass a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package in a completely party-line vote.

“Almighty God, as these lawmakers take their sides on this factional bill before them, we pray your mercy,” Kibben, a retired Navy rear admiral, said.

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“Forgive them, all of them. For when called upon to respond to a once-in-a-century pandemic that has rocked our country, upended its economy and widened the chasm of partisan opinion, they have missed the opportunity to step above the fray and unite to attend to this national crisis,” she said.

The Washington Post was first to write about the remarks.

While several relief packages approved by Congress in 2020 had bipartisan votes, no Republicans in the Senate backed the new measure and no GOP House members are expected to vote for it.

Republicans have criticized the package's cost and argued that President BidenJoe BidenManchin to vote to nix Biden's vaccine mandate for larger businesses Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Senate cuts deal to clear government funding bill MORE has not been able to meet them on issues.

Biden and the White House saw a Senate GOP response that was much less than half what Biden had proposed as far too small given the crisis facing the country.

“You have warned us that a house divided against itself cannot stand,” Kibben said. “And now we stand in need of healing and reconciliation.”

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Kibben said the lawmakers are “failing to address the acrimony and divisions which have prevailed in this room.”

Instead, she explained, they “have contributed to the spread of an even more insidious contagion of bitterness and spite.”

“Rather than employing the preventive measures of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, this armor has been set aside in favor of argument, disparaging words and divisiveness,” Kibben said.

She later added in closing, “Merciful Lord, rebuild this House, that their labor will not be in vain.”