By Mike Lillis
Never was Mayberry so political.
A group of Senate Republicans on Tuesday slammed the Obama administration over its new commercial featuring Andy Griffith touting the benefits of healthcare reform.
The lawmakers say the TV ad "is a clear violation of the spirit of federal laws that prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars for campaign purposes."
"We can debate the relative merits of the new law, but co-opting public funds during a recession, to make a political, poll-tested argument about the new law, is wrong," Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.), John McCain (Ariz.), John Thune (S.D.), John Barrasso (Wyo.) and Richard Burr (N.C.) wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
The Republicans want Sebelius to "cease the ad campaign immediately and reimburse the U.S. Treasury for any expenditure of taxpayer funds related to this effort."
"The job of the Executive Branch, quite simply, is to execute and implement the law, not re-litigate a political debate," they wrote.
Launched last week on national cable channels, the ad features the 84-year-old Griffith promoting both Medicare and the Democrats' new reform law.
"This year, as always, we'll have our guaranteed [Medicare] benefits," Griffith says in a message aimed directly at seniors. "And with the new healthcare law, more good things are coming. Free check-ups, lower prescription costs and better ways to protect us and Medicare from fraud. … I think you're gonna like it."
Over the weekend, FactCheck.org analysts criticized Griffith's claim that the law won't erode Medicare's "guaranteed benefits." That statement is misleading, FactCheck Director Brooks Jackson argued, because many of the extra benefits offered by private Medicare Advantage plans — benefits not guaranteed by law — may very well disappear.