October 20th, 2013
10:26 AM ET
11 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. Sami

    Instead of bringing smart guys from Silicon Valley to fix the ACA enrollment process, may I suggest we bring some wise, rational, seasoned politicians from Germany to teach the dysfunctional Senators and Congressmen how to fix the many problems of the country. Heck if the Germans refuse to come, try the Canadians next door.

    October 20, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  2. dw1650

    Yes the website is a fiasco, no doubt! But the telephones work, right? I mean they have a 1-800 #....The system itself is working don't use the website that is going through repairs as an excuse! If your bank website is down does that stop them or you from banking?

    October 20, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  3. Sane

    The issue is the model. Govt picks contracting companies to build these websites.. Usually these companies have long ties with govt agencies..Then these companies subcontract to another company with which they have ties.. At the end of this water fall is a small company which is probably working for cost.. To escalate an issue for this small company needs an act of God.. If Administration was smarter, they would have hired a single vendor like an IBM ..The issue is insider and lobby.. Same contractors get govt contracts no matter what..

    October 20, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  4. ken

    Just like online games, NEVERT

    October 20, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  5. Hogarth

    The website is a fiasco, said the man who thought Sarah Palin would be a good VP.

    October 20, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  6. Mark Bignell

    And let's not forget to bring in some smart people to fix the senate and house. Maybe those guys in Silicon Valley know where to get some.

    October 20, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  7. Shirley

    The Obamacare site is working just fine. I was just there. Get a grip GOP!!!

    October 20, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  8. Web Guru

    It is way to late for anyone in Washington DC to save their jobs. What they need to do now is make sure their time left in office is conducted with ethical, moral and patriotic fervor not seen before. Put the country first, the people second and their retirement balloon making last.

    October 20, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  9. ken

    Just like online games, NEVER sign up in the first few days. With all that traffic of course things will crash/be slow.

    October 20, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  10. Fr Seamus O'connell

    Worst President Ever

    October 20, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  11. luke,az

    I've been in AZ for 33 years and Sen. McCain is one of the most incompetent Senators ever elected. He waffles from one issue to the next without having any core principles. He is not a smart man. Typical Republican.

    October 20, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  12. Organic1

    McCain knows all the code being used and his opinion is infallible. >>kidding of course. smh

    October 20, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  13. Martha in CF

    I agree with American.....Cruz is not speaking for the American people--he should quit saying this!!!!!!!!! He is speaking of his interests and his interests only!!!!!!

    October 20, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  14. 4sanity

    "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.

    Oh, I couldn't agree more. Get Silicon Valley "smart people" to replace McCain and the rest of his crew.

    He does realize that with the "Internet", one doesn't have to physically get on a plane to work on the web registration problem, right ? One never knows how low the "level of incompetence" bar is among our climate-change, creationist, debt-ceiling deniers is ?

    October 20, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  15. raul c.

    Many US government websites are not too efficient to operate including John M. website and many others. So what's the big deal on the ACA website. This is now getting old.. Move on John M. and govern as you were elected to do.

    October 20, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  16. oldcpa

    How often does Amazon crash with over 10 times the volume? Will people like 30% plus higher premiums with 6x higher deductibles? How are individuals going to like extremely short visits with their doctors or only seeing a PA or NP? Maybe they will also like getting an appointment in 3 months? How will they like getting that hip replacement next year rather next month?
    Thank you liberals, we all love where you are driving this bus!

    October 20, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  17. Conservacide NOW

    I typically dont agree with Mr. McCain but I do respect him. He seems to be one of the only ones left in the party of Nutjobs and Zealots with some kind of sense. The AFA will most likely need some tweaking but give it time...Afghanistan wasn't conquered in a day....Reagan acted in many movies and sucked balls....if the program is going to fail give it time to survive or die....

    October 20, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  18. ug

    Both Ovomit and Mccan't are fiascos...

    October 20, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  19. tcs1891

    Claims that we don't want the ACA doesn't explain why the system is crashing because too many people are applying. Btw the state systems are working just fine. As for Mr. McCain, I dare him to name a single meaningful piece of health care legislation ever enacted by his party.

    October 20, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  20. Rembrant

    I agree: the inoperative website is inexcusable. But as a former web designer I also understand how difficult it is to develop and test a website when millions are accessing it simultaneously. Still, it gives bad mantra to ACA. We all know healthcare needs big-time reform, so the crappy roll-out is no reason to abandon healthcare reform. McCain and the GOP would do better to help fix ACA, or come up with their own version instead of opposing it altogether. Want bipartisan? Want to actually help the country? Want to raise Republican approval ratings? Then work WITH Obama on this.
    Remember: ACA was once a Republican-fostered idea.

    October 20, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  21. corpsman

    It's a website rollout. Name a major site that DIDN'T have initial problems. When it's all fixed by the end of next week, and ACA enrollment numbers top a million, what will the republicans find to complain about next? The republican party is rapidly becoming a bad reality show.

    October 20, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  22. ug

    Mccan't won't fight against the law...he wants to keep the law...he is a lib no less...

    October 20, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  23. MarkInChiTown

    McCain's statement shows how old and out of touch he is... I guess he's never heard of HACKERS !!... You don't have to "fly people in" anymore... If he's read a paper in the last decade he would know that any system can be accessed from anywhere in the world!... My guess is, the Chinese have already been all through it!... Yah John... Fly people in, and send an old Woody station wagon to meet them!... Have them telegraph you when they're arriving!... LOL... Earth to John McCain!... WAKE UP!!!!

    October 20, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  24. jimmie

    WHY burden the taxpayer AGAIN by flying in "experts from silicon valley" who are probably the ones who screwed it up in the first place? Actually, it is more likely that Obamination hired hacks from Acorn to do his programming.
    I say LET IT WALLOW IN MISERY AND FAIL. This way the whole world will see how incompetent the American president really is.

    October 20, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  25. Dave

    The man who made Sarah Palin a national figure has no business criticizing anything...

    October 20, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
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