October 20th, 2013
10:26 AM ET
10 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. ricardo1968

    Mr. McCain you are a technological GENIUS. Who's idea was it to give this job to dumb people anyway?

    October 20, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  2. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Republicans suffer from attention deficit disorder; they can't focus on one thing, they jump all over the place and accomplish nothing. That's one plan Obama knows works and he keepps them occupied while he leaves them behind and he's moving on.

    October 20, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  3. Alan

    John McCain should know better than anyone else, what a fiasco is. After all, wasn't he single handedly responsible for the Republican loss in 2008, with his choice of McCain/Palin for president. That's how Obama got elected.

    October 20, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  4. Crystal

    I think whoever planned the infrastructure to support the site should have anticipated any bottle necks. I don't think the ACA goes far enough, but it's a start.

    October 20, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  5. Be A True Leader

    President Obama must fire few top executives whom are in charge of the ACA website if they (a bunch of incompetents) do not volunteer to resign. It's an embarrassment and a disaster.

    October 20, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  6. bob

    Any fool can criticize, and most of them do. However, real politicians recognize the needs of society and suggest ways to see that they are met. The Tea Party doesn't want the working poor or the needy to have so much as a crumb if it means having to tax the rich or raise the national debt limit. Although they only represent the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, their efforts to portray a national health care plan as an evil that will bankrupt our country has made it very difficult for more rational Republicans to stand up to them and point out that we are long overdue for a practical, cost-effective national health care program. Other countries have had them since the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and those countries deliver better health care than we do, and they do it at half the cost.
    So let's not be distracted by right-wing radicals who think we can solve our nation's problems by sweeping them under the rug. Lack of health care, low wages, poor education and global climate change are hurting our economy, not helping it, and the sooner we meet these problems head on, as we used to in the good old days, the better off we will all be, including the rich. Yes, they will have to pay slightly more in taxes than they do now, and their corporations won't be quite as profitable as they are now if they have to pay their help a living wage and stop polluting the environment, but they will still be the richest rich people in the world, and they won't have to live in homes surrounded by moats and patrolled by dogs and armed guards.

    October 20, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  7. Nicholas

    Hey Senator McCain.. no need to fly those people from the Silicon Valley to Washington.. Heard of the Internet? These days, software development can be done remotely. We no longer live in 1990.

    October 20, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  8. tommy

    Fly in smart people from India – Senator. All smart people in silicon valley are from India.

    October 20, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  9. Dave

    Just finished setting up my insurance on the website. Aside from a little slow down (which is to be expected), everything worked perfectly fine. Not sure what people are complaining about. Aetna more than doubled my premiums for no reason (maybe for their shareholders), the ACA had plans that were much better and cheaper than Aetna.

    October 20, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  10. Lily

    I have witnessed in one country when they introduced for the first time ever to submit Tax Returns electronically. That very first time (first year), everything crashed completely. They whole country had complaints/blames exactly what i'm hearing about ACA now. The following year, everything was rectified and put in a very good order until now.
    I am very optimistic and believe ACA is also going to function very well.

    October 20, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  11. John

    Well, just to find out what the entire ruckus was about with the healthcare.gov website, on Friday Oct 18 at about 11:15 CST, I created an account in 5 minutes – from start to email authentication. Then I logged in and entered all the information required to obtain insurance quotes. It took a total of 45 minutes with no unnecessary delays to get to the point where my information was ready to review and submit. Which I did not need to do, as I am covered by an employer. But there were no problems in that first 45 minutes. Perhaps it is time to stop dwelling on the problems of the first week of open enrollment. We seem to be past that.

    October 20, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  12. mccain is a crusty old clown

    Love this one: "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 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  13. dirksterdude

    Something that doesn't seem to be said by the Republicans or Democrats during the government shutdown is who exactly is supposed to fix the website if a contractor is not being paid or if the government employee was furloughed? Do you see programmers, network engineers, and website developers as crucial to government infrastructure? I doubt the government does. While the ACA is a federal program the website exchanges connect with local and state programs that are handled state-by-state. Therefore, just because Republicans don't like the law doesn't mean it shouldn't be supported. So while I can see politicians doing what politicians do to enact and/or repeal laws they don't like how much better would this work if everyone tried to make it work because it IS the law whether they like it or not?

    October 20, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  14. SN

    It is very risky for the GOP to pin point defects with the website and rollout process teething problems. The reason is once the teething problems are over, they would have nothing to complain about except accepting it. So are they saying that if there were no teething website problems that they find the AFA acceptable and laudable? If then they are waling down a very slippery path to defund it, let alone oppose it:)

    October 20, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  15. Siestasis

    The problem is with govt contracts. The contract for the ACA internet software was given to small companies that know how to bid on govt contracts but not necessarily know how to set up a complicated web site. The procurement regulations should have been set aside and instead the smartest computer software people should have been hired. Same thing with the other govt depts., especially the IRS that needs updating. The lowest bidder is not always the best.

    October 20, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  16. Gryst

    ....this opinion from the man who chose Palin as a running mate in his presidential campaign? Questions of credibility arise.

    October 20, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  17. Seth Hill

    If you want to shut down Obamacare, here's how: Enter a bill in Congress that shuts down Obamacare; have Congress vote on that bill. I thought that was the way our Representatives and Senators were supposed to do their jobs.

    October 20, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  18. Paul Calkins

    We would not need a health care system if the republican big business owners would pay their employees
    a fair wage. Now they are upset because they are going to pay in taxes.
    Republicans cater to big business and the rich, Democrats try to keep a democracy in tact and keep the poor fed.
    American companies need to pay decent wages so poor people don't have to buy cheap goods from china,
    the communistic country we are in debt to. Our country is screwed no matter how you slice it.
    I am neither a republican or democrat. I quit voting for them when Bush got elected a second time, I also sold my home before I lost it which was the best decision I made in my life.

    October 20, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  19. Reticuli

    For Ohio I don't see any discount over the rates available last year. And I only have one provider with reasonable benefits: Humana. Where's the group buy rate and the increased choices? The other option it gives me is to be "exempt" from having to buy insurance.

    October 20, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  20. TexasAnnie

    John John, John- while I agree the website has problems that need fixing, I cannot get over YOU, of all people, calling anybody out. Weren't YOU the one who foisted that bimbo Sarah Palin on America!!! When you live that one down, then maybe you can complain about other people.

    October 20, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  21. Jill-IN

    Just use the 800 number to dial in and sign up. You will get good help and they will answer all your questions and give you all the information you need to decide on the various options. Don't forget not everyone has computers and internet access. Also many folks including young people who are not very familiar yet with health insurance language such as co-insurance, co-pays, deductibles, will appreciate the help and information that will come with a phone call. You can even have someone join the call with you (a spouse or friend with your permission).

    October 20, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  22. DrewinOmaha

    I wonder what the Republicans are going to say when we find out the Tea Party has been paying some Russian hackers to perform DOS-type attacks against the website?

    October 20, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  23. ryan

    So...the problem with obamacare is the website amd NOT the pricing?! Suuuure

    October 20, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  24. Jill-IN

    Another thought on a lighter note, McCain is suggesting there are no smart people in D.C., ... I guess he is included in that lot.

    October 20, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  25. Grampa

    I guess McCain is never going to get over the fact that Obama beat him. At least Romney had the grace and good sense to fade into the background. It must be said, though, that when McCain talks about fiascos, his is an informed opinion.

    October 20, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
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