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. HJC

    Mr. McCain – You let this ridiculous legislation pass and now you are complaining about customer service? When given an opportunity to correct your error you call it a "fools errand" .

    I'm the fool, I voted for you in 08'.

    October 20, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  2. Suzanne

    When I tried to enter the healthcare.gov site on Google Chrome, I couldn't get in for several days. Then I could get so far, and no further. I used Firefox instead, and have gotten in every time I tried, with no issues at all. Reviewed the policies we are considering again today, and will be purchasing our coverage this week. If you've been having difficulties with your usual browser, try another.

    October 20, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  3. Mike

    Only the uninformed and unrealistic expect a huge new website with expected users numbering in the millions to come online behaving perfectly as intended right from the beginning. Problems, sometimes serious ones, are normal at implementation and require some time to be identified and worked through. Those who assign blame to this being a government effort, or to "Obamacare" being a 100% terrible idea, are even more clueless.

    October 20, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  4. Tall Paul

    The problem is that too many Republican states decided not to participate and thus did not set up their own web sites. This left the Federal site to handle all the individuals from these states. The Republicans have no one to blame but themselves.

    October 20, 2013 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  5. lerianis

    With all due respect, most of the 'problems' from this website come from trying to buy all of it's parts from 'private companies' and not having a hired coder write the website to be the simplest that it can possibly be.

    October 20, 2013 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  6. billy

    Considering his two presidential campaigns, I would say John McCain is highly qualified when it comes to recognizing a fiasco.

    October 20, 2013 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  7. tbgrsrlsrs

    So sad. A genuine war hero has been reduced to whining about technological glitches.

    October 20, 2013 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  8. sage

    john mccain is somebody who knows a lot alot about fiasco's ... look what the repubs did to the USA, how much did it cost john?

    October 20, 2013 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  9. bdby

    Senator McCain, if you are going to bring people in from Silicon Valley then you must demand at least 6 to 8 months of time allowed to test the system with test users. This is the last step in verifying that the software is truly suppose to work the way it was designed. As it stands now this last step before going into production was just simply shorted at best or just not allowed to happen by some govie official, who in my opinion should be fired.

    The Secretary should not be required to maintain detail on this part of the program so it is not really her fault. She depended on an incompetent individual that was assigned something he/she had no interest in completing successfully. I would give her another chance.

    The lame excuse is that too many users are trying to log on is rubbish. Look at the banks. They process millions of transactions a day without a glitch. So it can’t be the amount of users trying to log on.

    It’s the software where it is malfunctioning.

    Just my thoughts.

    October 20, 2013 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  10. yogi

    The only thing Republicans have mastered, is the art of criticizing and obstruction, because they have NO idea how to govern, how to legislate, how to create jobs. They are the masters at the sideline, the Monday morning quarterbacks. The GOP is a pathetic bunch.

    October 20, 2013 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  11. Whatever

    Let me get this straight. Because the website has problems due to an overwhelming amount of people accessing it, Republicans say Obamacare is a failure?? I can't wait for the 2014 midterm elections.

    October 20, 2013 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  12. annieL

    Now let's look at the Pentagon and its track record of producing perfect new weapons, helicopters, fighter planes, guidance systems, communications systems, surveillance systems etc. in collaboration with Lockheed, GE, ITT, Honeywell, Raytheon and a whole bunch of others with all the private-sector technical brains in the world. And let's look at the cost overruns while we're at it. Heck, let's just look at the salaries and perks of those corporate CEOs and their lobbyists' expense accounts. Now, Obamacare's website doesn't look so bad, does it? Do we say, "Our defense program is a train wreck and we need to shut it down" when one new helicopter crashes and burns? Do we say, "Government can't do anything right" when a guided missile misses its target? I want the website fixed, no, I DEMAND that it be fixed because what it is supposed to do is help millions of uninsured of my fellow citizens get affordable health insurance and some peace of mind that they won't go bankrupt if one of their family has to go into the hospital. So until Republicans apply the same standards to the Pentagon's projects as ithey does now to Obamacare's website, I think they should shut the heck up.

    October 20, 2013 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  13. Whitley

    The websites have some glitches, but they seem to run a lot smoother than the Congress.

    October 20, 2013 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  14. Harold Richards

    But the liberals say that the website problems for over two weeks is a SUCCESS!!!

    October 20, 2013 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  15. texas77562

    anything Obama touches becomes a fiasco there is no surprise there.. just step down so we can have our country back before you totally ruin it.

    October 20, 2013 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  16. navaJohn

    Why does everything have to be black or white in politics. It's either good (my party did it) or bad (the other party did it) no matter if it really IS good or bad. If something was created by Congress and it doesn't work right "out-of-the-box" FIX IT! Don't throw the whole thing out! We could have some real improvements to health care in this country if both sides work together, not try to take down what has already been debated, voted on, made law, and upheld by the Supreme Court.

    October 20, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  17. Kristine

    I live in a red state, Georgia, and had NO problem signing up for the Affordable Care Act last week. Have a so called pre- existing condition and was unable to get health insurance. Thank you President Obama! Still wish we had gotten a single payer system, but at least I have insurance now!

    October 20, 2013 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  18. bruce

    So they couldn't stop poor people from the ability to get healthcare. Now the focus is on whining about a Web Site?

    How Pathetic is that ?

    October 20, 2013 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  19. Shahin Shokoofandeh

    The Obamacare website is a Fiasco , the Cheesburger meal Missing from Mcdonalds Value Meals is a Fiasco, This whole court is a Fiasco!

    October 20, 2013 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  20. Gopherit

    The "fiasco" is McCain himself.

    October 20, 2013 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  21. jimbo

    What is a fiasco doing calling anything else a fiasco. Time for this guy to just go away and take Palin with him!

    October 20, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  22. Pete Zaria

    I guess any site would be a mess with tens of thousands of righties crashing the site.

    October 20, 2013 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  23. Mike

    Kinda like Bush's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Right John.

    October 20, 2013 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  24. Jeff Frank (R-ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.

    October 20, 2013 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  25. Jay

    Just the other day, wasn't Obama saying that the exchange website problem was just exaggeration by some right wing bloggers. Now he brings in help? For what? Which is it?

    October 20, 2013 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
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