October 20th, 2013
10:26 AM ET
6 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. boyamidumb

    Well JOHNNY, if you people would all stop playing politics for a moment, and set aside the money the lobbyists are paying you – just this one time. MAYBE you could actually use your brains to come up with a good health care reform for the people who put you there and ultimately pay at least a good percentage of the money you get each year. And oh, if you don't, and we take you out of office – as we should most if not all of you – you won't get the money from the lobbyists, and you just be another forgotten old man.

    October 20, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  2. D jones

    It is clear there are no smart people in Washington.

    October 20, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  3. Christopher Scorzo

    McCain... a guy who indicated he has trouble working his iPhone yet has the answers to solving this problem.... Right... How about learning to work together towards a resolution rather than spending time taking as McCain puts it... "rifle shots" to destroy.

    October 20, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  4. John

    Simple solution here folks. The government, despite spending hundreds of millions of our tax dollars is simply not yet ready to execute this plan. Obama should "man up", admit the plan's shortcomings, and grant individuals the same 1-year delay that he has granted employers. That way, people won't be stressing getting signed up to avoid the extra tax payment and the government can hire some MORE foreigners to fix this mess. Perhaps if they took out all the information feeds to the NSA database the system wouldn't bog down as much.

    October 20, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  5. longleyr

    Aside from a headline grabbing sound bite, I think John McCain may be partially right. I've worked on government projects for 25 years and processes and technology have not kept pace with the rest of the technology world. I don't think you can blame the President or a Secretary of a particular agency because this is how government IT works. It needs to change. Here's a chance to start. Pick a group of social visionaries, programmers and industry healthcare experts and lock them in a room without government involvement. Add in some infrastructure expertise from Google and Amazon and I think you could get this all fixed in time for the holidays.

    October 20, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  6. fastball

    OK....proceed with Act 2 of the GOP plan.
    Now start bashing the process...and keep harping on it til your followers are convinced that it's the Worst Thing Ever. Meanwhile, those of us with actual working brain cells will figure it out.
    Frankly, listening to John McCain's "good ideas" gave us Sarah Palin....so, for the love of Pete, Mr. McCain, please consider retiring – or at the very least, sit in your chair quietly and let the smart people try to figure it out.

    October 20, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  7. Mona

    Ted Cruz is Canadian right? The firm handling the software or whatever you call it is a Canadian company right? Well then, perhaps an AMERICAN COMPANY can fix the problem & get rid of the Canadian influence, both company & so called senator!

    October 20, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  8. Emmy

    McCain...another name for bad loser. I wish he would retire.

    October 20, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  9. Willa45

    John McCain's time would be better spent worrying about the 'fiasco' inside his own Party.

    October 20, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  10. UriNation

    Americans need to push for "no insurance for everyone". Insurance is what has driven medical procedure prices to where they are today. If there were no insurance, prices would plummet; we'd all pay as we go. No different than 50 years ago when insurance did not exist.

    October 20, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  11. ArthurP

    Version 1.0 of any computer software system never works when opened up to real world users.

    October 20, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  12. TheTraveler

    Anyone who has spent any time in IT or related fields knows this; site problems grow exponentially with the size of the project. The bigger the project, the more bugs and glitches. Having worked in IT for 20+ years, on many, many projects, I can understand the issues the design and implementation teams faced. Roll outs seldom go by the numbers even with the best planning. I wouldn't expect 99% of our paid politicos to understand this.

    McCain's take on this is pointless. Just more muckraking by the media.

    October 20, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  13. Vikachi

    Devided WE WHAT???

    October 20, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  14. Native Earthling

    LOL! McCain's vision plan is to have those programmers jumping out of a C141 with parachutes and brief cases. Doh!

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

    Mr McCain, the veterans benefits application process is a total disaster, but I don't her the GOP whining and moaning about that.

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

    Sometimes the only way to get a problem solved is to just start doing it. Government systems are a total mess, due to decades of disorganized and uncoordinated growth.

    This isn't a "website" problem, that part seems to work fine, even under load. It's the back end that's the problem, and you can't just "fly in a plane load of smart people" to fix that. It would take months for them to even get up to speed on all the system requirements (including all the systems they'd have to interact with) to even get an idea of the full size of the project.

    Should this have been done better? Of course! Could it have been, given the realities of dealing with a politicized system? I doubt it. Would a private company have done better? Perhaps, but probably not.

    I was able to create an account the 2nd day, but not able to sign on until a week ago. That seems to be when a LOT of people were suddenly able to sign on. So, they fixed something. Sounds like they have some other things to fix. Be patient. When I'm developing complex software, everything can be all messed up, no idea where the problem is, nothing is working right, it's horrible, then I find three problems in a short period of time, they're easy fixes, and all of a sudden everything is smooth, beautiful, working as expected.

    Give it time, big rollouts almost never go smoothly, whether done by government or not.

    October 20, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  17. Golden Policy!

    I just went to the site and was finished signing up in 15 minutes. What is the problem? As if McCain has to sign up or something? Spin spin spin GoP...but wow...how wrong you are.

    October 20, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  18. gregor1971

    The web site is just one part – people with insurance are alarmed at the increase in cost they will now have to pay. This whole bill was just ill-conceived. Sure, it works great in certain states, depending upon their demographics, but this one-size-fits-all approach across the nation is just a terrible idea. Just a gross overreach by a government that has always been bad with numbers and projections. They had no real clue about the true impact. Every time the budget office looked at the program, the numbers got worse, so the administration just stopped asking. Kind of like a shopaholic that doesn't want to open the credit card bills anymore.

    October 20, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  19. Ken

    Those of us who work with the software application understands that for the large system like this no matter how many trial one performs the real trial is with the real customers. This is nothing new. Those Oldies and political mined people do not understands wow application works. Ask young payrole accountant how many hours they have to spend every week/month typing, verifying and processing manual checks. Now a days it is minor application and push of button to send out checks to all employees. Remember my friend when we started sending checks electronically it was not that easy.

    Why are you blaming Obama. If you of that kind blame President BUSH for wasting billions/trillions of our money and calling "War is Over". It is not the faults of leader but the system. Take steps to punish who are guilty.

    Blame US for killing millions of Japanes as wel

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

    Hey Democrats, enjoy your hyper inflated health care insurance rates with big 'ol deductibles, my money won't be participating. So easy to get you lemmings to part with your cash hahahahaha

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

    As an expert user interface developer who has completed the process; I was simply impressed by the induction page design and internal intelligence. I tried to get in from the very first day; and yes the system crashed several times.

    I thought it was ballzy to try to allow everyone access at the same time; rather than splitting us into groups (by date of birth, for example). But it is too soon to judge the system – like all roll-outs; it will need patches and improvements. But if a half million have successfully completed a fairly complex process, this is a good milestone.

    It is way to soon to condemn, and McCain's timing is clearly the latest assault spawned from the insatiable desire of the Republican Party to discredit democratic America.

    October 20, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  22. Double standard

    Why is the public sector expected to do things better than the private sector? As the President said, if Apple can't keep up with volume, you don't throw away the company. All sites are buggy at times, and all are brought down for maintenance, typically overnight. The problem is the expectations are out of line with reality. It hasn't even been 30 days and we're already calling for resignations. ROI is typically looked at in 6 month intervals. This needs more time to bake.

    October 20, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  23. patw2100

    Roberts and McCain are Obamacare supporting RINOs. They need to resign,

    October 20, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  24. itscion

    It's a mess because they went out of there way to hide the rates until you fully register. Why are they hiding the rates? Because they are off the charts unaffordable unless you go with the lowest coverage. Not to mention many providers have pulled out of the exchange. The site is just the point of blame but not the cause of this fiasco.

    October 20, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  25. 60minuteman

    The website can be repaired. Problems with the ACA can be repaired. McCain and the rest of the republicans can not be repaired. When someone with a broken finger goes to the Doctor, he does not fix the finger by shooting the patient.

    October 20, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
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