October 20th, 2013
10:26 AM ET
10 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. mc Cain is full if it

    took me 20 minutes to get threw it. the thing might slow down due to the system pulls info from the IRS and HLS. once again a blow hard BS senator who doesn't have clue spouts off about thing he doesn't personally have to worry about. useless retire dust ball before you blow away.

    October 20, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  2. Mel Bozell

    Yea no duh. This not at all what I thought it would turn out to be.

    October 20, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  3. David

    What a disaster

    October 20, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  4. dave

    It must be a shock to multi-millionaires that the internet does not work that well. It probably gets worse if your computer is an oldie, or you live out in the boonies, maybe not in a major City. I always have trouble with my computer, and the internet, and I don't have a computer technician here in my house.

    October 20, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  5. Don W.

    Umm, might I suggest that when working on the web, it might be more efficient to let the team members work as they used to working, remotely, rather than tossing everyone onto a plane?

    October 20, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  6. What happened to Disqus?

    I clicked on the website and pretended to be single with yearly income of $15,000. The site then gave me a long list to choose from of companies policies their costs and benefits. That was where I became stuck. The description of each policy was exceedingly poorly written. KISS! I consider myself well-educated and intelligent-I went to school in the old days when schools taught reading, writing, and arithmatic. Now picture the average young fast food worker reading it.

    ps I came to the conclusion they would not be able to afford the policies.

    October 20, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  7. Vikachi

    Rep.dem.there all on da same team.as long as we the people fight eachother hate eachother we will b devided n controled.poorer we become the more power the 400 who run da show get over us.silly people there tricks are for them.we all R 2 blame 4 them.B one or fall.

    October 20, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  8. roger

    Well John Mcain is such an amazing senator.. His state is almost bankrupt... Maybe he can help run it !

    October 20, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  9. fuzzback

    Ah, yes...but unlike republicans, the ACA web site can be FIXED.

    October 20, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  10. ghaddar

    To to senator McCain, it's time to call it quit. You have done a great job for this country and it's time to enjoy life, maybe start an IT career placement agency.

    October 20, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  11. barBarS

    Be part of the solutions for America, McCain, not part of the problem. That's what the citizens have been paying you for all these years.

    October 20, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  12. amlcpamaine

    ANYBODY who does leading-edge work on these types of applications knows things that make McCain sound like another old whiner:
    1) .. anything tied to medical systems is outrageously complex
    2) .. believe it or not, the government has IT design people who are as skilled as anybody (or moreso) ...
    3) ... of all the "customers" that designers and consultants serve, the VERY WORST are projects driven by Congress. This group of dysfunctional blowhards have caused billions in extra work for companies AND government on defense and social programs.

    McCain is part of the problem and anybody in Silicon Valley knows it. He's just getting headlines - something they don't care about. They just like to get things done - something he knows nothing about.

    October 20, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  13. 66Biker

    McCain has more than demonstrated how dumb he has become in his old age. That was pretty obvious when he choose Sarah Palin as his running mate. But every time he opens his mouth, something over the top stoopid rolls out of it.

    October 20, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  14. jorge washinsen

    There is trouble in Smallville today.

    October 20, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  15. strangerq

    Half a million in two weeks is a fiasco?

    Because its too slow?

    Because the demand is so high?

    Some fiasco.

    October 20, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  16. jorge washinsen

    Probably millions of comments awaiting moderation.We will never know.

    October 20, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  17. Steve

    We should have listened to the Tea Party.

    October 20, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  18. Dr. Ray from Ohio

    McCain may be right about getting people from Silicon Valley to work on the ACA website. Apparently the contractors working on it are all NSA-cleared folks, which in DC often translates to white. This may sound like stereotyping but we may need some Asians working on it, with special clearance from the NSA. You don't have to be white to be patriotic, NSA!

    October 20, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  19. JP

    I doubt he even visited the website. McCain is just trying to cash in on the drama. I was on the website yesterday and signed up with no problems.

    October 20, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  20. Not Too Hard To Understand

    I enjoy when McCain comments on technology topics that are far beyond his grasp. Remember, this is the same putz who thinks iPhones are made in America.

    John, the world stopped listening to you sometime ago, but even more so on topics relating to technology.

    October 20, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  21. Monroe

    I am an accountant and have been involved in many system inputs and upgrades. I will say that only one went smoothly. It encompassed a small upgrade. All others had to have minor/major adjustments. I know personally from other system upgrades/inputs that these large (SEC) companies ended up taking out and starting over.
    The reason I say this is because, anyone in the know should have suspected problems. I am confident, over time, all will work out.
    On a side note, I wonder how many folks on Medicare would like to have it rescinded.
    One more item. I wonder how the individual states whom opted "in" the AFA are doing with sign-ups?

    October 20, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  22. Doctor

    Well, senator, who could fix that? Oh, you could, but you would rather tell us about it.

    October 20, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  23. peyman

    i am sick and tired of one side support of cnn for barak obama and democrats . holy ,i think enough is enough .if can wants to stay as a fair and bipartisan news outlet they better stop while they have the very little credibility that they might have

    October 20, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  24. Goober

    Goober Says: Give the job of computer sign up quality control to the people that conducted the 2000 Florida Presidential election

    October 20, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  25. Dustin.Goldsen@yahoo.com

    When Democrats create a mess for Republicans to clean up its engineering a system that is released too early. The solution, fix it and a few months later no one will remember it was ever a problem.

    When Republicans create a mess for Democrats to clean up its a major economic disaster beginning with the word "Great". It becomes part of our history that is talked about for generations.

    October 20, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
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