October 20th, 2013
10:26 AM ET
9 months ago

McCain: Obamacare website rollout a 'fiasco'

(CNN) - Longtime Republican Sen. John McCain on Sunday described the enrollment process for Obamacare thus far as a "fiasco" and vowed to continue fighting the health care law. But he said Republicans should take a "rifle shot" approach rather than the "meat ax" strategy of defunding the law altogether, as endorsed by conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz.

On CNN's "State of the Union," McCain was not quite ready to call on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to step down, unlike others in his party, but he supports the idea of holding congressional hearings over the issue and encouraged more efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

"Let's find out who is responsible for this fiasco and then take the appropriate action," he told CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger when asked about Sebelius.

"But this is just the beginning of the problems," he continued. "That's why we Republicans have to keep up the fight. But we have to rifle shot it rather than go at it with a meat ax, which cannot succeed."

Nearly half a million people have filled out applications for Obamacare coverage since October 1, despite the highly publicized problems with online sign-ups, administration officials said Saturday.

"The website is unacceptable, and we are improving it," one senior administration official said. "But the underlying insurance product is good, and across the country, people are getting access to affordable care on January 1."

The Affordable Care Act is intended to serve more than 48 million Americans without health insurance. Most Americans face tax penalties if they do not have health insurance by the beginning of next year.

McCain had his own recommendation on how to fix the rocky rollout.

"Send Air Force One out to Silicon Valley, load it up with smart people, bring them back to Washington and fix this problem," he said. "It's ridiculous. And everybody knows that."

The 2008 GOP presidential nominee said he believes that the Obamacare glitches would be a bigger story if conservative Republicans hadn't staged a strategy that in part led to this month's government shutdown.

"Many ironies here, but one of them is the fiasco of this rollout has been obscured because of this … strife that's been going on in the Republican Party," he said.

Spearheaded by Cruz, House Republicans repeatedly attached anti-Obamacare provisions to must-pass spending bills, which the Democratic-controlled Senate refused to take up. The stalemate ultimately resulted in a 16-day partial government shutdown that removed $24 billion from the economy, according to an initial analysis from Standard & Poor's.

McCain has been one of many Senate Republicans to criticize the effort.

"It was a fool's errand to start with. It was never going to succeed," he said. McCain didn't single out Cruz but blamed "the whole effort" instead.

"Keep up the fight against Obamacare. But don't shut down the government and have so much collateral damage," he added.

Although Cruz hasn't ruled out trying to take the same approach when Congress faces another fiscal deadline in January, McCain said he's confident Congress will not let it happen again. "The American people will not stand for another one of these things. They just won't."

Cruz to CNN: ‘I don’t work for the party bosses in Washington’

This week, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold a hearing on problems with the Obamacare enrollment process. Sebelius was invited to testify. A Health and Human Services official said last week that she won't be available for the Thursday hearing, but she's in "close communication" with the committee about its request for her testimony.

Some lawmakers have called on Sebelius to be fired or resign, but Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, like McCain, didn't immediately call for her to step down over the problems. However, Rubio, along with Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, criticized her for not going to the hearing.

"Her refusal to testify and be transparent about it, I think, is undermining her credibility, and there may come a point where, in fact, she will have to resign, largely because she no longer has the credibility to do the job," Rubio said on "Fox News Sunday."

On the same program, Blunt argued that there will come a point when "she'll have to testify."

"I don't think she can refuse to answer questions about this," he said.

– CNN's Kevin Bohn and Greg Clary contributed to this report.

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.


Filed under: Health care • John McCain • Ted Cruz • TV-State of the Union
soundoff (657 Responses)
  1. Tony

    The government shutdown was a bigger disaster than Obamacare for Republicans. How about dismantling the Republican Party, Senator McCain?

    October 20, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  2. Marie MD

    These teatards don't learn, do they?
    The man who gave us the screecher from AK should take care do his own house, in his case senate.
    On one hand we have the koch brothers giving money hand over hand to the teatards. Their brother bill is number one in line to derail any of our President's climate action plans. He owns coal mines in Colorado.
    It seems to me that all repugs should be tried for treason. They are being led by billionaire brothers and heritage foundations who are their puppeteers and would rather the country tank than go forward.

    October 20, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  3. Lynda/Minnesota

    What did John McCain and the Republican party learn from shutting down our government for 16 days?

    Not one damn thing.

    October 20, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  4. rtrauben

    mccain and his party should either constructive or keep quiet while this program works out standard kinks.

    October 20, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  5. Jim Rome

    Unlike the Iraq war, and Afghanistan.

    October 20, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  6. Jim Rome

    McCain talks about this site as if it's not his responsibility. But it is.

    October 20, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  7. All aboard the shutdown express....

    spoken like a true republican...you've been in the senate for how many years now sir? when did you or your party ever even talk about health care for everyone? whatever the problems with Obamacare (and yes, I'm sticking with the name you republicans gave our healthcare system), it's the best new thing in healthcare in this country in 50 years!

    October 20, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  8. LiberaLIowan

    Imagine that. McCain doesn't like the signature legislation of the guy who crushed him in the 2008 presidential election. What a surprise.

    October 20, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  9. John

    It's unbelievable they are so quick to ask for a resignation. The whole lot of them should first ask for their own resignations for their failings of our government.

    October 20, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  10. Bob Bob

    Kirk Grothe. This is the guy who oversees the $634 million contract given to industry friends under the guise of their building the website architecture. Apparently he has been a fraudster before, yet he was given more money by the feds for pork barrel spending. For anyone who knows him, he oozes sleaze and is one of the biggest perps in this debacle. http://touch.baltimoresun.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-29749006/

    October 20, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  11. sage

    john mccain cared more about getting a superbowl ring back from Putin!

    rush limbaugh ... the icon republicans can't live without

    October 20, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  12. Anonymous

    As I've said before, they've made it impossible to follow the law. I've heard plenty of condemnations, but where's the actual action in making this site work? And, who is going to actually be held accountable for this "fiasco?" I can't believe I'm actually agreeing with a male Republican on something.... OUCH!

    October 20, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  13. Nathan

    The government shutdown was short term........Obamacare will be a LONG LASTING financial burden on the government. Everything the liberals touch ends up a debacle.

    October 20, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  14. csv

    I was able to register myself in 15 minutes (10.10AM EST 10/20) and compared health care plans around 40 minute mark. I am sure others are having real problems but I did not notice any glitches.

    October 20, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  15. ya rights

    Just like all then S&L's back in the 80's eh John? You know the one's you was supposed to oversee as a Senator?

    October 20, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  16. srcactus

    Again, Sebelius like all of the Obama cabinet is expert at hiding from investigation, seeking help, reaching across the isle or even down the hall, keeping the underlying incompetence a secret as their only defense. With Hillary now speaking to gain recognition, there may come a more transparent period for this administration and that can only bode well for the American people.

    October 20, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  17. Bill

    To claim that Obamacare is affordable is a joke- "But the underlying insurance product is good, and across the country, people are getting access to affordable care on January 1." Most people are finding their rates are going UP, their deductables going UP, and their going to opt out of this monstrosity. Obamacare will implode on it's own, just give it six months.

    October 20, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  18. Not Too Hard To Understand

    McCain commenting on anything technological is a source of humor. Remember, he thinks iPhones are built in the U.S.

    October 20, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  19. jnpa

    So McCain, you want to dismantle ACA? What do you plan to put in its place? Nothing? Then what will all these people do in a few years for health insurance if the GOP succeeds? Will they just be dropped? Think GOP! I know that's hard for you, but try anyway!

    October 20, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  20. vic , nashville ,tn

    I don’t what they are talking about but I got my health care quote nearly $ 200 less than what I have now (per month)

    October 20, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  21. aaron

    Maybe instead of trying to destroy our economy and giving federal employees paid vacation for a few weeks, the Repubs could have done something useful....like get the glitches fixed in the website. They don't actually care if it works or not since no rich people are having to use it to sign up. Just something else for them to whine and boitch about. And, McCain was the one who pushed for allowing for the securization of mortgage loans, which led to the 2008 economic collapse. Has he ever answered for that? Of course not. But, he expects Obama to answer for every website glitch.

    October 20, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  22. Kinard

    I'd like to ask big John a question. Do you remember the Keating 5 disaster? Something to do with savings and loans in the late eighties. For those of you too young or stupid to remember this, look it up. John's skirts go down to the ground, and they've collected a lot of dirt over the years. If I were John, I'd be a little less judgmental and a little more open to change.

    October 20, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  23. William Bramblett

    Say what you want about the republican party, but this "Obamacare" rollout is simply an epic failure. Everyone out there should attempt, as I have, to simply set up an account on the healthcare.org site to see just how abysmal it actually is.... just hopelessly pathetic, useless, and infuriating.... like using a system out of 1988 or some such. And this is the same government trusted with our nuclear arms, homeland security, and our general welfare? Truly scary.....

    October 20, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  24. Bill

    If the GOP wants to criticize the Obamacare website, they would have more credibility if they used someone a little less archaic than John "I don't know how to use email" McCain.

    October 20, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  25. done dirt cheap

    Fiasco, great descriptor for your presidential campaign, John.

    October 20, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
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