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As Senate readies COVID relief bill, right turns to ... Dr. Seuss?

Post-policy Republicans aren't just ignoring the relief bill, they're also turning their attention to cultural grievances that can't be legislated anyway.
Image: Books by Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, including "On Beyond Zebra!" and "And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street," at the Chinatown Branch of the Chicago Public Library
Books by Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, including "On Beyond Zebra!" and "And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street," at the Chinatown Branch of the Chicago Public Library on March 2, 2021.Scott Olson / Getty Images

Later today, Senate Democratic leaders are expected to move forward with their plans to approve an ambitious COVID relief package. It won't be easy, and the process is expected to take a few days, but the goal is for the upper chamber to complete its work and pass the $1.9 trillion bill by the weekend.

In theory, Republicans should be fully engaged in the debate. We are, after all, talking about sweeping legislation that will have dramatic effects on everything from vaccination distribution to jobs, health care to child care. Around this time 12 years ago, GOP went all out to attack the Democrats' Recovery Act -- which carried a price tag of roughly $800 billion -- so it stands to reason that Republican officials would be waging a similar partisan fight now.

And yet, much of the GOP and its allies appear content to take a pass. This is not to say Republicans like the pending COVID relief package; they don't. The bill received unanimous GOP opposition in the House last week, and it's likely to face a similar reception in the Senate this week.

But in terms of the party's focus right now, Republicans appear far more interested in children's entertainment than the $1.9 trillion legislation poised to reach the Senate floor today.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), for example, there was a remarkable amount of attention focused on the gender-based marketing strategy surrounding Mr. Potato Head and a new disclaimer on old episodes of "The Muppets." (Donald Trump Jr., in particular, seemed especially upset about the latter for reasons unknown.)

As MSNBC's Hayes Brown noted yesterday, some prominent Republicans have even become preoccupied this week with Dr. Seuss.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., even managed to work in a lie about Seuss' being canceled in a speech denouncing a bill to expand voting rights nationally.

Yes, the House GOP leader went so far as to say, out loud and on the House floor, that "they" have "outlawed" Dr. Seuss.

There was also an obsessive focus on Dr. Seuss on Fox News yesterday, and the network's White House correspondent even brought it up during yesterday's White House press briefing.

To the extent that there's an actual "story" here, Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced plans yesterday to pull some decades-old children's books that included racist imagery. This has caused some on the right to flip out because, well, I'm not altogether sure why. Apparently it has something to do with "cancel culture" or something.

But it's the larger context that's truly bizarre: Congress is getting ready to pass a massive relief package in the midst of a pandemic and economic crisis, and post-policy Republicans aren't just ignoring the bill -- they're also turning their attention to cultural grievances that can't be legislated anyway.

Just when it seems the right's interest in governance can't get lower, conservatives find a way to make matters worse.