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. Mark

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

    I agree Dave. This guy represents the 'Old' in GOP. The GOP should change their name to 'FLOP' because that is about all they do these days, just flop around like grounded fish.

    October 20, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  2. Mike

    Perhaps McCann should suggest the ACA website should be handed over to the guys who did the ORCA system for the GOP's 2012 election tracking and prediction. Of course, that is the system that crashed repeatedly but still informed Karl Rove that Romney would win Ohio.

    October 20, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  3. omeany

    I'm amazed at the number of people who equate the medical care they will receive to the performance of the website. It's not like the web techs are the ones who will be performing your medical procedures.

    This really boils down to American unwillingness to see every American have access to healthcare. I know the argument is they can always go to the ER but we all know the ER only stablizes you and charges 1000% more if you don't have insurance which is then passed on in the form of higher premiums and co-pays to those who can afford insurance. Bottom line we all pay more and get less and less.

    If we continue to ignore the medical needs for a growing majority of Americans we will eventually get to the point where only the very wealthy will be able to afford health care and the average American will be relegated to folk remedies.

    October 20, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  4. Dick Bacon

    Careful, John. If you keep this up, people might start thinking of you as a cranky old man.

    October 20, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  5. David

    Obamacare is a fiasco in itself . I just received my January 1st. statement and I going to start paying a fortune monthly. This will really hurt the middle class badly.

    October 20, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  6. WillyNilly

    Last week's agreement to open the government was in part influenced because the Repubs realized they had really screwed up. If they had been patient, they might have been able to jump right on the website issue. As it was they were becoming the most hated people in the US and no one really had time to criticize the website because they were trying to save their reckless political behinds. Another example of Republican poor judgment and flawed decision making.

    October 20, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  7. Edward

    ""Send Air Force One out to Silicon Valley, load it up with smart people, bring them back to Washington and fix this problem"

    Why not some where in Alabama or Oklahoma? Why are you always running to blue states when it is time to look for smart people?

    October 20, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  8. jleoxii13

    Its how our feds do contracting. Lowest bidder. Company with people we like. Lowest bidder. Of course, if I were a fed on this job, I would have given it to IBM and let them take the fall. So, because of sheer stupidity, heads should roll. But the federal procurement system is fundamentally broken and somewhat corrupt.

    October 20, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  9. kspn

    Isn't this same Sen. McCain who picked Palin as his running mate in 2008?

    October 20, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  10. bellenoitr

    Good idea, McCain, except that you don't need to 'fly them in.' Remember, it's a virtual world.

    October 20, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  11. jleoxii13

    This is a problem with federal acquisitions and procurement. Lowest bidder. Company we know. Lowest bidder. Best Value. Lowest bidder. That's the story. It's not about who can do the job, rather, its about who we can give the job to. Of course, the feds running the job should have called IBM or NGIT or GDIT...so for sheer stupidity, yea, they should be sacked.

    October 20, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  12. BD70

    So McCain thinks all the smart ones are in silicon valley? What a laugh.

    October 20, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  13. stevetall

    Old people aren't that good with computers. McCain is a good example.

    October 20, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  14. mike

    It seems like everything Obama touches turns into a disaster.

    October 20, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  15. Justin

    I guess John hasn't heard of open source. Why waste money and time on travel?

    October 20, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  16. Bill Davis

    Oh John McCain doesn't realize there are smart it people all over the country and they don't need to be physically present to fix a software issue...

    October 20, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  17. MBSeattle

    The comments have to be tempered by the notions that some states got their sites up and running with very good results California, Washington, New York to name a few and some states did not. Why do I think that states that opposed this found ways to not do a good job.

    This launch has to be viewed in six months the news cycle updates of the Republican party will conical every hiccup to prove themselves the profit of doom.

    For all that the Republicans find wrong with this plan I could not find a copy of there's. Man up and make it work for the uninsured of your states

    October 20, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  18. criticalthinker

    So the Republican Party that just subjected out country to billions of dollars of losses by needlessly shutting down the government, is now complaining about a bad website?

    Are these Republicans for real?

    October 20, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  19. Barrington

    There is an old wise saying that " a drowning man catchiest at a straw." The republicans are drownng in a state of disfunction and are grasping at straws. The website is an issue but nothing that cannot be fixed. Making this the main issue about the affordable care act is a loosing idea. These extreamist are haters of the president because of various reasons, one being because he is black. Get use to it!!!

    October 20, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  20. martin2176

    and McCain thinks smart people in Silicon valley have nothing better to do that fix some stupid governmental website.

    October 20, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  21. Aaron

    This is absurd; Dems reject voter ID laws based on availability, but support an internet application for healthcare? So these folks who can't afford transportation to get an ID obviously have access to the internet? What a bunch of bs.
    On top of this, the admins approach, from healthcare to Benghazi, is just to ignore calls for justifications. Nothing looks good about this.

    October 20, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  22. SuperReverb2

    McCain should talk. STILL a sore looser from the election. Tired of all his negatives. Typical Washington politician that's all hot air and no substance. Showed great character judgement in the "Sarah Palin" choice for VP. Really wish he would go away quietly.

    October 20, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  23. don

    Whenever something happens, you can expect John to say something negative. Other then that, I have no idea how this man is actually helping this country. What else does he do?

    October 20, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  24. El Guapito

    Senator McCain...in this day and age it isn't necessary to "fly smart people" in. They can video conference and remote to the appropriate servers and work from the comfort of their homes. As always you whine about everything you don't fully understand. Please would you like some cheese with that whine.

    October 20, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  25. BBBoomerWI

    Why does the media keep interviewing McCain anyway? What do they EXPECT him to say? I'm so glad he and Palin are not running the show. Yikes!

    October 20, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
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