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. Roger

    Obamacare is no fiasco compared to Iraq and the worst recession since the Great Depression. Republicans like bombs and bullets and invasions – not healthcare.

    October 20, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  2. Shelia

    ACA is a fiasco

    October 20, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  3. GOPHypocrites

    McCain approves of every defense contract "fiasco". Hypocrite, look at the 1.5 Trillion dollar F35 program.

    October 20, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  4. tcs1891

    Claims that we Americans don't want or need affordable health care reform doesn't square with the huge demand that is causing this computer system to crash. Btw the state systems are working just fine and are registering thousands of people, even in red states. As for Mr. McCain, I dare him to name a single health care law that his party has ever enacted for the benefit of the people.

    October 20, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  5. Aaron S

    Hey Paul R-

    As of September 17 the Huff Post reported 48 million Americans were uninsured- of course the response will be the HP is biased left. But if you look at the date it shows 48 million over a month ago!!

    October 20, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  6. joef

    The link off to the RI health care site went very well. Signing up was pretty easy once you took the time to read instructions. Give the ACA a chance, work together to improve it and we'll have a great health care system for all Americans. I'm pretty sad seeing this great country crumbling. Stop the in-fighting and do what you've been elected to do. Stop the bigotry and white-trash republicans. And Ted Cruz, hmmm, Ted Cruz. Can't say what I want since this is a public forum. PS, I am saving $75.00 a month and am getting much better coverage.

    October 20, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  7. Firstname Lastname

    McCain: You are on the right track. Defund the whole thing and start over with a new batch of brains.

    October 20, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  8. Dr Strangelove

    How many of that number are duplicates?

    October 20, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  9. David

    Does he actually think smart people in Silcon Valley would want to fly to Washington to fix it? Or is he suggesting drafting them?

    October 20, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  10. ThinkAgain

    @Fr Seamus O'connell: "Worst President Ever"

    If you're referring the bullet we dodged named McCain, then, yes, I agree.

    October 20, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    Seriously? Congress just got paid to grandstand for 2 weeks and they have the gall to accuse Federal employees they furloughed of not doing their jobs?

    October 20, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  12. Jerry

    The Republican controlled house in Washington a fiasco. Solution vote in smart people that can work together to fix the budget and keep the middle class alive.

    October 20, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  13. Aurora Chuck

    I say we spend another $634 million over another 3 years to get it right! The Federal government is a joke! This is just a scheme to get to single payer. And that will be a quagmire. Lets see, and this is not conjecture but from the CBO/GOA:

    Obamacare...1/18 of our GDP
    Medicare....broke in 10 years
    SS.....broke in 20 years
    Medicaid......broke
    Post Office....broke and running billions in the red every year.
    etc., etc.

    and for some reason the low-information voter thinks more INCOMPETENT, UNACOUNTABLE government will fix these problems. They'll just kick the can down the road until total fiscal IMPLOSION. Can you say GREECE! What a joke.

    October 20, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  14. NameFrank Deery

    McCain made sense: bring in tech experts from Silicon Valley, though, as one who has worked with computer systems, I know a bad
    platform plan, where even the "users" cannot explain it(Obama et al)to programmers, or that system cannot even provide a head count, is Bad! Obama, Reid, and Pelosi rammed this mess through Congress in 2009.
    Chickens are returning to the hen house. Republicans tried to delay this fiasco, but are
    now treated by the very media, who helped put a lousey President back in office, as "losers" . From Benghazi, to Boston, to Damascus, to IRS scandals, to a stupid decision to launch Obamacare with no net,
    Obama Sebelious, et al have Failed!

    Wake up America!

    October 20, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  15. bptsj

    Getting 48 Million into a health insurance program is the right thing to do. Not doing so is fiscally irresponsible. Their cost of health care shows up in the economy either way. Having paid health insurance reduces overall costs and places some of the costs on those incurring the medical help. My biggest problem with politicians in general is they do not focus 100% on solutions, more like 95% on political bickering and 5% on solutions. I relate this to the private sector and how 99% of these politicians would never be able to hold a job. They would be fired within 6mo for non-performance.

    October 20, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  16. TheAnswer

    "Smart People" in Silicon Valley already have jobs. "Smart People" aren't going to leave their current jobs to work on fixing a failed project. They will need to double the current salary that these people make to even interest them.

    McCain is obviously not one of these "Smart People".

    Obamacare application needs to be scrapped and started over from scratch with a new team of developers.

    October 20, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  17. Jeep146

    The goverment should of had the option to enroll in person. Believe it or not a lot of people still don't use computers.

    October 20, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  18. arenagal

    Do we abandon an insurance system that for the first time gives the poorer uninsured people an opportunity to have insurance, just because of technical glitches? These politicians who know so little about technology want to make audacious comments on things they don't know to work.

    October 20, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  19. Politicalpost

    McCain started using computer after he lost elections to Obama who was way ahead of using new technology. He does not realize there has been a tremendous response to ACA that glitch is bound to happen that take time to sort out. Like Cruz with 'meat ax' his 'rifle shot' approach to kill ACA will not succeed and will be an embarrassment to him when things start working hickodockery. Like McCain many of healthcare providers did not embrace ACA at first are now lagging behind instituting new technology and are losing to those that did. Pop must now retire.

    October 20, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  20. Amunra99

    If we canceled every weapons system that was delayed by buggy software we wouldn't have the weapons system we have now. Mr. McCain has a long record of supporting weapons programs that have been way, way over budget and years behind schedule.

    Health care for our entire population is a matter of national security as are so many other factors, not just ungodly expensive weapons systems. 20+ Republican governors are preventing the very, poor in their own states from getting Medicaid even though it will cost the states $O the first few years. California, New York, Kentucky – these should be the guides for the Reublican states – instead they ar following North Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, and the other backward looking states.

    What about the aircraft built in Italy for our military? As fast as they are delivered they are thrown on the junk heap. How about the billions Congress insists the military spend on buying more M1A1 battle tanks. According to every senior person in the Pentagon, and any thinking person familiar with the military, realizes this is Congressional pork. These tanks are not necessary, will not be used, will require expensive storage, are not a part of the National Security Strategy, the National Military Strategy, or any Regional Commanders plans (CENTCOM, PACOM, EUCOM, etc.)

    I guess if the prime on software development were Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, or CSC John would be looking for ways to improve the software. Certainly the U.S. based subsidiary of the Canadian company CGI should be severely penalized for the software mess they created and should bring in, at their expense, additional qualified specialists and companies to get it right as soon as possible.

    Just as McCain did not throw out the weapons systems as a train wreck because of early software problems, we should not throw away the opportunity to provide millions of our citizens affordable health care because of early software problems.

    Unless the Affordable Care Act is not the real target – could the real target be that astute African American who was twice elected President and ran the last time on a strong ACA platform – he roundly beat his opponent who was against such a plan.

    October 20, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  21. Wjinfl

    McCain won't be happy until the republicans start another war.

    October 20, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  22. DAT

    Here's a guy who accepted Sarah Palin as a running mate. That pretty much negates his right to criticize anybody else for anything for the rest of eternity.

    October 20, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  23. dcnc

    I was finally able to create an account (only took 5 tries). I did not advance though towards seeing what options are available for me as I had heard about the website issues. I thought I would give them a couple of weeks to resolve. I just tried the site today. I logged in and clicked on the button to just start the process of seeing my healthcare options. The site gave me a message that I could only apply for coverage in one State. I have not even started the process in the State that I am signed in for. I went to the Chat room and was told they are having issues with so many people logged into the site. The whole team designing the site really need to be fired! I lean more democratic, so for me to say this screams that they need to take down the site and only bring it up once they have the site functioning. If they were just honest with the people and state they have too many issues, I believe while the media hype would be large, we would accept the apology and would wait patiently for them to fix the issues. But, when you ignore the fact that the site is horrible and try to mask the problems to the People, you are just upsetting us. I have not intentions now of signing back in for at least two months. Maybe, just maybe, they will have hired some competent people to fix the problems.

    October 20, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  24. Faux Scandals

    I guess the Republicans want the Insurance Industry to continue to deny and rob people, and for CEO's to recieve huge bonuses for robbing and denying people.

    October 20, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  25. charles

    Obamacare is a "fiasco, employe smart people from silicon valley". What a self-centered moron!! The same morons employed by private insurance company's who for a longtime been crushing the American dream. If republicans wanted to help the American people they would have followed mitt Romney and embrace universal coverage like it is in Massachusetts.

    October 20, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27