(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.
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"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.
The Democrats proved to the American people that they were willing to put the country into default over this "new" welfare program. Don't think for one minute that Republicans won't capitalize on that.
no one is in favor of socialized medicine and people dont like the premiums along with the fact if you look at the way the programs are supposed to be used there could be delays in getting care
Hmmm, 1% of 48MM in the first month of enrollment...... with just two months to go it sounds like SOMEONE better get this figured out quickly! They only had a couple of years to get it right......
Anyone remotely involved with IT systems know the easy part is the data entry. The difficult part comes when all the data begins to be used in delivering the product to those that have signed up. From the experience so far, I doubt that it will.
Oh lets not forget the purposed doctor shortage as a result of the potential for an additional 48MM people getting some form of healthcare.
How can anyone take McCain seriously?
This is the same guy who collects social security, a military pension, disability, and whatever other freebies the taxpayers are being gouged for.
This guy needs to shut his pie hole and come up with a better option for ALL americans to get healthcare.
And as a senior statesmen for the GOP...what has McCain done to help? other than to B&C about everything...another lost cause that needs to be voted out!
So how about we spend $24 billion dollars to fix the website? Or how bout just a teeny tiny small fraction of that? Oh that's right, the GOP blew it on the shutdown!
Evidently Senator McCain doesn't realize there's such a thing as the Internet... you don't have to be onsite in order to work on a website. Nice use of gun analogies too, very Republican.
Seriously, a team of 10-15 people should be able to re-create the entire site and have it running inside of a month, who knows what monstrosity of a project team they used on the current one.
This was always going to be a train wreck, because it could not possibly reduce costs, nor.......was it EVER funded, and paid for. That was another Obama lie........one of a great many Obama lies.
This law was only passed, even when Obama still had control of both house in Congress.......by Obama literally paying off Democrats, under the table, to change their votes, from NO to YES!
It was passed through fraudulent methods!
Solution? Hire the NSA to do it – they wouldn't have any forms to fill out as they have terabytes of data on everyone in the world already.
Is there more than one of him – he shows up in front of every camera and mic. Can't understand why people want to keep interviewing losers and and those so desperate to stay relevant.
Nothing is better than burning a confederate flag.
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. <~~LOL, he's right about this. The Canadians seem clueless. But then maybe that's why the clueless administration hired them.
Republicans: "Hey, let's defund it! No? OK, how about delaying it? No? How about trying to sabotage it? No? How about cutting funding to the PR/public education provision? The website has problems – let's cut the money for that! I don't like the colors! Let's fire the web developers! I don't like your tie! Let's defund you! I don't like evolution! Let's defund real science textbooks! It's all Obama's fault! Impeach him! I don't believe it climate change! But if there is climate change, that's Obama's fault! Scientists are just trying to scare us about the asteroids! But if one does hit us, that's Obama's fault too! He should have funded NASA more! But if he funds a NASA program, that is more government spending! And he should be impeached for that, too!" (my fingers are getting tired)
All Republicans do is attack the Affordable Care Act.
What have they offered to replace it?
There latest criticism is that the program is so popular, the millions of people rushing to sign up is causing the web sites to go down.
Bring in them indians lol
Ol ,macadoo. question? Whats with the analogy "rifle shot". Are you that corrupt and hate filled to use such a ugly reference to oppose the Potus. Ugly and disturbing.
What they need to do is hire some of the best MMO guys and gals to rework the website. WoW to the rescue!!! ;)
Why doesn't John McCain fly in Sarah Palin to fix the website? She is an expert at everything.
No, John. You're the fiasco. The site works fine for me.
After all the stories I had a good look at the Obamacare website. It looked quite good and easy to use to me. I checked out a few states and again everything looked great. I am from Canada so I did not try to register of course. I have family in the USA so healthcare issues concern me. Despite problems, universal healthcare in Canada has overwhelming public support here. Canadians are saddened by people in the US not getting care or being faced with massive bills even when they are victims of crime or terrorism. I hope the new system works out, give it a chance and it likely will.
I wasnt 'there, and if I was, I didn't do it. And if I did, do it, it was some else who pulled the trigger., and. . .
Mr. Mccain is worried about the time and money wasted here. What about the money wasted during 16 day Shutdown-all the government workers got a 16 days vacation with 100 % pay. Isn't it called money wasted? I am not against any government workers but it is true that they got paid without working even a single minute. Ask those who wants to work but can't find one......
Hmm, @Rick McDaniel – if Obamacare was NEVER "funded," then why are Republicans spending so much of their time and our taxpayer dollars trying to DE-Fund it???