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. ZNASSER

    or bring in Sarah Palin...

    October 20, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  2. tet1953

    McCain's comment is naive when it comes to IT, but to suggest something constructive like fix it rather than repeal, defund, delay is refreshing.

    October 20, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  3. Path

    Stop ridicules laugh Mr. McCain. Think about pushing Obamacare through to save your own people.

    October 20, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  4. icu

    19 millions people trying to log on to the website. I guess the aca (obamacare) is not that bad. Maybe the republician need to rethink what is failing. ie Ted Cruz. that Canadian citizen. After all Mr. cruz have free health in Canada.

    October 20, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  5. It's me.

    Doesn't seem like Sebelius has done much for health care. Ineffective. They are all still heading down the same wrong path. Take health care off the back of industry. They can't handle it. Never could. To the point that they shut the place down (CEASED ALL PRODUCTIVITY, not just the software, but the government too). Don't be too easily impressed with the people in health care. There's a lot that just simply isn't in their education. We have crap for health care. Making it more expensive isn't going to help. They are already sending too much money to the wrong people (insurance companies). There's not thing about this system that makes a speck of sense and until they bring in the people that have a clue how to fix systems...they aren't going to get anywhere and we are going to suffer for it.

    October 20, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  6. Dorothy

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

    Good idea, Senator, since the collective IQ of Congress is equal to its public approval rating.

    October 20, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  7. Mac

    97 billion for a website (6x times over budget) that uses free open source software by sprymedia created in another Country (Canada) and doesn't work. I think if someone really digs deep into who invested in the company responsible, they will find a lot of wealthy politicians. Unfortunately, we are to politically divided to actually work together to stop things like this.

    October 20, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  8. ricklinguist

    There certainly seem to be technical problems with the ACA portal. They need to be fixed.

    I see that as a separate issue, however, from the general GOP criticism of the ACA. Do they at least accept the notion that opening up insurance market places for those who are currently uninsured is a noble goal? It was their idea, originally, after all.

    If so, fix the website and also encourage people nationwide who remain uninsured to sign up, either online or by phone or in person. This isn't rocket science. Having health insurance is important, and all responsible individuals need it.

    I don't understand the opposition from the supposedly pro-market GOP. Time to help make sure the ACA is a success. Otherwise, they will be seen as petty and, frankly, extremely unhelpful to those who need health insurance.

    October 20, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  9. Beth

    I work in healthcare and have heard numerous cases of people applying for insurance on the website successfully.

    October 20, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  10. Sinister Skater

    Anyone who has worked in the corporate world after the introduction of PCs should know that no rollout goes smoothly. Granted some go better than others, but to expect no glitches at all especially with something of this scale is outright ridiculous.

    October 20, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  11. MV

    "Fly in smart people from silicon valley"

    Who do you think designed the website? It was private contractors, not public employees. And it was big companies like Oracle.

    October 20, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  12. ProtectAmericanJobs

    Didn't they out-source the creation of this website?

    October 20, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  13. Bills Cat

    If nothing else, he can be counted on to try to milk some more free media time from the obvious.

    October 20, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  14. BarbM

    dw1650 had the most intelligent response .. use the phone if the url site doesn't work for you .. same thing if the bank site doesn't work .. you use the phone or go to branch/center ... there are other options while they figure out the glitches ... as for calling for resigning .. I suggest that Cruz and all those that tried to hold up ACA and the shut down the government .. resign .. their actions were deliberate .. not glitches .. think about it !

    October 20, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  15. Jim23434

    I think McCain is to old to understand how computers & the internet work. Instead of flying smart people to DC, maybe we should just have them us their computers in CA that are already connected to the internet to fix the problems! Crazy idea!

    October 20, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  16. doctor

    He's correct . It's a joke. Just try it

    October 20, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  17. blakenaustin

    Rarely do I find myself agreeing with the RINO and fool, John McCain. But he is absolutely right.

    October 20, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  18. Thorp lastenbar

    McCain, old, tired, and beaten squarely in 2008. Sit down, and be quiet dude

    October 20, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  19. funny

    Where was this amount of outrage from McCain and the other right when all the data and all the emails and the backups mysteriously were unrecoverable during the Cheney and Bush administration?
    Every new project startup has bugs and anyone in IT knows this.
    This is grasping at straws and a Non Issue.

    October 20, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  20. Seasoned Geek

    There's lots of ways to screw up a technology project, and word is that this one suffered from lack solid specifications because of delays in finalizing policies and converting them to detailed requirements for the developers. You can't compare a project like this to the iterative process of building a web product like Facebook – given the interconnectivity between back-end insurance systems, a project like this requires decent engineering upfront.

    October 20, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  21. Gregory

    How much did we spend on trying to develop Reagan's Star Wars program?

    Getting the website(s) up and running is not rocket science. It is complicated certainly, but we are not having to develop entirely technologies.

    BTW, Oracle is developing the system here in Oregon. Not exactly light weights when it comes to technology. Oregon has mandated a higher standard of functionality than the federal standard, thus leading to delays.

    October 20, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  22. 1zb1

    Seems McCain the rest of the right wing crazies who want to turn everything over to private enterprise and the free market that it private companies that are primarily responsible for the mess. Why is it with the rightwing that Government can do nothing right and business can do nothing wrong when in reality its mostly just the opposite.

    October 20, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  23. Alan

    Fox News keeps claiming that since the system has had so many problems with people trying to call in, that it means the ACA (Obamacare) won't work either. That shows how stupid Fox News and the Republicans really are, or maybe they thing the public is stupid. What did they expect, with millions of people trying to call in at the same time?

    What the government needs to do, is extend the signup deadline to next spring sometime. Give things time to settle down, give the people more time to call in. The ACA is going to be accepted, and will work, given time, and once again, the Republican party will be proven what liars they really are.

    October 20, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  24. thundersnow

    Lets defund health care benefits for all elected GOP and keep the affordable health care act for the people.

    October 20, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  25. Frank

    Why is it so hard for people to understand that obamneycare was going to regardless. Also the website just got started after a month they will have all the problems fixed. They have until March because the insurance will cover you starting on January 1 no matter when you get it.

    October 20, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
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