October 20th, 2013
10:26 AM ET
9 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. Know Your Subject

    "Nearly half a million people have filled out applications for Obamacare coverage since October 1"

    CNN reported that more than half of the "application" volume came from the 17 states that run their own exchanges. And the federal website requires you to fill out an "application" just to be able to see the actual terms of the policies that are available. Instead of crowing about the number of "applications" the Adminstration should admit the number of policies purchased.

    October 20, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  2. Dick

    Too bad they don't have some of the $28+ Billions just wasted in this latest shutdown, to help build a better more useful web site. Lets fix the problems not toss the baby out with the bathwater.

    October 20, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  3. JCal

    Sorry ... but to whoever wrote this article – 48 million Americans is just the tip of the iceberg. Obamacare (the ACA) also mandates that if you are already insured in a policy that does not meet the "standards" of the ACA – you will be terminated as of Midnight 1/1/14. Some insurers have arbitrarily put people in policies they feel are "equivalent" to the ones they already had. But, at least in California, they can't even detail what providers (doctors, hospitals, etc.) you will be able to use. Talk about outsiders taking control of our lives!!!! Also, half the people that I know who will be canceled, did not know it because the cancellation letters looked like junk mail in a thinly veiled attempt to hid this from the consumer. So that is easily another 20-30 NEWLY uninsured – thanks to the ACA. So instead of 48 million Americans, the total to be signed up is more like 70-80 million Americans. It's 8 weeks to the 15th of December deadline (to be insured by Jan 1). Does anyone in their right mind thing the "glitches" can be fixed and 70-80 million more people be signed up? All this was so unnecessary. We had 3 1/2 years to get this right. What was the HHS doing all that time?

    October 20, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  4. Jim

    McCain is the man! We need more in congress like him!

    October 20, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  5. Lord Toronaga

    What joke. Obama fixes a problem that didn't exist with his Obama-care. Higher premiums...huge deductibles. I already lost my insurer and have to get on the NY website to nowhere. And it fails. Just wait and see if these 48 million uneducated liberals will file their income tax and pay deductibles. Too funny.

    October 20, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  6. JacksonAction

    Funny, the only people saying that Republicans are going to suffer in the next election are Democrats. Bwhahahahahaha. The Republican base is energized and we will see them pick up even more seats in the next election.

    October 20, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  7. NatanElias

    The website reflects the entire program. Everything the government touches turns to trash and costs 100 times what it should.

    October 20, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  8. lewtwo

    There is no greater 'fiasco' than the Tea Party controlled GOP.

    October 20, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  9. meki60

    Not just the website, but the entire plan. Another great move by the charlatan in Chief.

    October 20, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  10. SNS

    A fiasco? Rather like your two failed attempts to nab the Presidency were!

    October 20, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  11. Robjh1

    No McCain the fiasco is not having up-to-date voting machines in every state. Anyone with some intelligence knows that any thing in popular demand involving internet usage is bound to have some difficulty. Heck! The holiday season is upon us and there will be glitches in many retail sites. Why the negative over this just goes to show many still aren't for healthcare for all and will look to blame anything.

    October 20, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  12. CaesarXIII

    Everyone complains about government whether they're Republicans or Democrats and we just handed our health over to them to manage? Maybe we really all do need healthcare to get our heads examined.

    October 20, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  13. Jo Jon

    Wow, now even the democrats are falling off the Obamacare band wagon.

    October 20, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  14. Bobby Ray

    Hard to believe the Obamacare site has any problems with all the support and assistance given from the Right Wing and Tea Party

    October 20, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  15. Guest

    Obama is already calling for another tax hike but look how he is wasting money left and right.

    October 20, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  16. NameVikki

    The reason why people do not have health insurance it cost from $400.00 to $1200.00. The deductible runs from $500 to 10,000.00 per person. Some do not have rx and go coverage. We did have good insurance until Obamacare took over.

    October 20, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  17. Name

    I hope the government shutdown again..

    October 20, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  18. nick

    bitter, bitter, bitter. Why is it that these guys like McCain can't offer solutions rather than just nitpicking and tearing down everything that Obama proposes. McCain just sits up there on his high horse and criticizes everything while never proposing a solution of any significance. Our health care system for the past 20 years has been a disaster of epic proportions and Republicans have been in denial for years now. They are far too invested in protecting their campaign donors than actually fixing the system.

    October 20, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  19. Skarphace

    It is strange how Republicans have done a complete 180 on this issue. A few days ago they didn't want anybody to have the opportunity to sign up for the ACA. Now they are complaining that people can't get signed up fast enough.

    Well, maybe it isn't a 180. Maybe it is just hypocracy.

    October 20, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  20. john

    This from a guy who is an "expert" on the internet? Internet gambling maybe......

    October 20, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  21. pkfops01

    Notice how the blue states aren't having any problems with their systems?

    October 20, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  22. Not Too Hard To Understand

    McCain commenting on technology? Seriously? This is the same guy who thinks iPhones are made in the U.S.

    October 20, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  23. MS

    In 2 weeks, we blew 26 Billion Dollars because Congress does not want to do its job. I think CONGRESS is a much bigger FIASCO. The website is just a glitch that will be resolved overtime. CONGRESS has been in the same spot for last 5 years and will stay there for another 5.

    October 20, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  24. John

    That's because federal IT personnel report that hundreds of persons or groups are entering the system and using false information to merely maintain connections in order to overload it.

    That is precisely how republicans have worked in concert with respect to every other aspect of government and their assault against the White House administration. It is nothing less than expected by them. They are most likely the ones responsible for attacking the healthcare website as well.

    The GOP has made an_ass out of themselves for more than a decade now.

    October 20, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  25. Carl Hudson

    So was Sara Palin.

    October 20, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
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