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. K

    This guy picked Sarah Palin as a VP candidate ... and he has the gall to complain about any political decision being made?

    October 20, 2013 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  2. norma jean

    I think "Builtowner" needs to pick up his toys and move to another country... Which one???? Who knows.....he'll be coming back soon anyway!!!..."As they say"The grass is always greener................"

    October 20, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  3. Patrick Quon

    Why do Republicans hate the American people so much? Especially cancer survivors? They don't want us to be able to get health coverage. Why? What did we ever do to them?

    October 20, 2013 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  4. ArthurP

    Why is big business so against national health care. It has been show over and over that a healthy workforce is much more productive and costs less is time off.

    October 20, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  5. dick

    What's a fiasco is McCain's wealth, mostly from his wife's side of the family mind you. But when you own 17 multi-million dollar homes and have a bank account larger that all of the poor in the state of Arizona combined, you tend to be just a little out of touch with what is really going on in this country.

    October 20, 2013 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  6. Roger Ogilvy Thornhill

    Yay! Finally Republicans can complain about Obamacare in a constructive manner. About time.

    October 20, 2013 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  7. regororedam

    I believe in John McCain and I believe in Bigfoot. In fact, I think John McCain IS Bigfoot! How about you?

    October 20, 2013 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  8. Patrick

    Because the web site is having problems a few weeks after launch the whole programs is a failure? The news media is buying into this spin. The program hasn't even begun yet.

    October 20, 2013 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  9. G

    Iraq and afganistan was fiasco –

    October 20, 2013 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  10. John The Electrician

    They should get a pic of him in front of a computer. He already looks confused.

    October 20, 2013 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  11. August

    How many of us can tell you obama's speech contents?
    "It's a great program...just off to a rocky start......LOTS (unknown inflated number) of people still got onto it and many more will during the coming weeks......Trust me and what I say". LOL

    Please folks, he's leading us down a very bad path.

    October 20, 2013 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  12. Nagu Hu Phart

    So says the man who so carefully vetted his running mate...

    October 20, 2013 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  13. MontanaTrace

    Obama: "Look, there's nothing wrong with excluding Congress."
    JQ Public: "Then shouldn't private citizen be excluded too?"
    Obama: "Trust me. If they are trying to use the website, they are being excluded."

    October 20, 2013 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  14. Pat in IL

    An act of Congress made the Affordable Care Act a law. To keep referring to it sneeringly as 'Onamacare' is petty and ludicrous. To try to turn the website issue into some sort of scandal is even worse. I think Cruz and others have too much time on their hands and should do some actual work for our country.

    October 20, 2013 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  15. independent

    Perhaps if McCain's State Governor had chosen to create a State exchange and take charge of health care needs in AZ, they wouldn't have to rely on Federal Govt exchange.

    October 20, 2013 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  16. Bert974

    This attitude that the shut-down is not saving money but is taking $24 billion away from consumption is just going to be used as justification for endless spending. The "people" in Jeffersonville must think the US government can't go bankrupt. No statistics are used to calculate the amount of money saved. Apparently that is a concept considered fraudulent or non-existent.

    October 20, 2013 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  17. 2008 loser

    If he wants to talk about fiasco let's talk about McCain's pick for a VP running mate...

    October 20, 2013 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  18. USAF Retired - Spouse

    When the Tricare West Region contract changed hands from Triwest to United Healthcare Military and Veterans, the result was much the same! It took nearly a month for the website to be responsive and for United Healthcare to get up to speed processing referrals and reimbursements to doctors. While our local House Representative got involved, no one in Congress was calling for hearings. I wrote to Sen McCain and got a very polite response that made it obvious no one really read my letter.

    October 20, 2013 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  19. UmHello

    Of course Mr. Mccain is going to say that. Anything to poke holes in this effort (while he and his wealthy family are covered medically by VA benefits). For those of you who use computers and websites, it is truly a rare event for anything of this scale to work right out of the box (just ask Microsoft, Apple, etc.).

    October 20, 2013 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  20. cliff

    I tried and got a message "in progress" which actually means "NOTHING is happening, you are stuck in limbo." I called help lines, did Live Chat: the people were friendly but no help. They were afraid to be honest and say "We are not really doing anythng with your application." I finally realized that as a hard-working US Taxpayer that I need to do what I have always done: Take care of myself. (The government is only here to take tax money and confuse things) I went to Aetna directly and a friendly person offered me a number of plans for 2014.

    October 20, 2013 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  21. cliff

    If the people who designed this Obamocare Website had been in charge of the USA during World War II, we would just about be launching some kind of vague response to Pearl Harbor now....

    October 20, 2013 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  22. Jarizona

    John Mc Cain has been an embarrassment to the state of Arizona for years, and continues to show its time for him to retire,or go on an extended vacation until his term runs out. Ever since he lost the election he has done everything he can to show the people why he lost the election!

    October 21, 2013 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  23. Norm

    The man who chose Sarah Palin as the person to be a heartbeat away from the presidency is certainly an authority on fiascoes.

    October 21, 2013 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  24. PREMAL D.SHAH

    Senator McCain, hope that you are happy man now! " I won, I won. hahaha, I defeated Obama's happiness; I won"...is that what you want to convey Senator?

    October 21, 2013 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  25. Ken

    $650 million taxpayer dollars for a website...and it doesn't work. Amazing.

    October 21, 2013 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
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