October 20th, 2013
10:26 AM ET
6 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. A Reagan Democrat

    Obama addressing the Obamacare fiasco is just Baloney and Salami (let the reader understand). It's a fiasco because the Democrats who passed the monstrosity and those in the administration are totally incompetent.

    October 21, 2013 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  2. Penelope

    How about mentioning that there are lots and lots of people signing up for ACA successfully without any issues in places like California, New York and other states that have supported the ACA implementation?

    October 21, 2013 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  3. reality

    This from the man who nominated Sarah Palin to be one heartbeat away from the Presidency.

    October 21, 2013 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  4. Russ

    The Federal site is malfunctioning, not the state sites. States that set up their own exchanges, and built their own sites, like New York, are functioning well. I live in NY and our's works as good as if you were buying something on Amazon. Southern RED states that don't want Obamacare, and depend on the Fed site, are having problems. The thing is, you are going to have to get it eventually, so have your officials set up your own state sites. And you will pay more for Obamacare in some states because your state government didn't require that insurance companies provide much, whereas in NY they were required to. You may also only have a choice of two companies. In NY, we have a choice of about 50. Get with the program and save money. Don't fight it. It's here to stay.

    October 21, 2013 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  5. Benjamin Ghazi

    Obama has NO concept of money or even patriotism. As if his $100 million dollar VACATIONS weren't enough, now we've learned he wasted anywhere from $200,000,000.00 to over $600,000,000.00 U.S. taxpayers dollars on a lousy WEBSITE. A WEBSITE!!! But wait, there's more! They had 3 long years to work out the bugs yet it's STILL BROKEN. And the worst of it? Obama couldn't give the contract to a U.S. team, instead he gave it to a FOREIGN company using FOREIGN LABOR. How do I spell relief? I-M-P-E-A-C-H-M-E-N-T

    October 21, 2013 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  6. Art

    Mccain is a fiasco, including a few other Republican's. Mccain should have been institutionalized years ago. He's a crazy old man, give it up and work at the Coors brewery your wife owns, as a taste testor.

    October 21, 2013 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  7. mike

    If people can not afford insurance then do you think they can afford a computer and internet to sign up for O bum mer care?

    October 21, 2013 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  8. Socrates

    Maybe Snowden can help. He is good with computers.

    October 21, 2013 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  9. mike

    Isn't McCain calling anything a fiasco like the pot calling the kettle black?

    October 21, 2013 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  10. Mopery

    McCain sure knows those fiascoes well, just ask him about the Keating S&L scandal....

    October 21, 2013 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  11. krehator

    He'd criticize it even it there was no problems. Gimme a break.

    Iraq and Afghanistan were a fiasco and the entire GOP said nothing. In fact, they cheered it on.

    October 21, 2013 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
  12. Higgg Smithins

    McCain doesn't know what he is talking about. You don't bring in experts in the 11th hour after the site is already up and reasonably operational. McCain clearly knows NOTHING about how these systems are built. The people who can most easily fix it are those that built it. They know the code, they know the design and they likely already have a punch list of the most critical problems. More cooks in the kitchen who have never seen a line of the code in the website will not fix it. I've seen this mentality before from non-tech people. Somebody working on a project runs into serious difficulty... first thing some executive no nothing says is... let's get some 'experts' in here. Doesn't work that way.

    October 21, 2013 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  13. It's Me

    Herein lies another reason that people want single payer. If you think these folks have good websites, you're dreaming.

    October 21, 2013 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  14. ShoogaJ

    Sorry John, but you no longer have any credibility.

    October 21, 2013 02:34 am at 2:34 am |
  15. 2020

    What is John worried about? Obamacare?

    Don't get excited. John. Per your GOP believe Americans hate Obamacare, so why worry about a website. Good or bad, if Obamacare is so bad, no American will go there, no one will buy, and why beat up a dead horse. Right?!

    When you GOP jumping up and down on a defunct website, it is Obama's failure. What do you called it – 3 weeks with the House GOP? the Tea bagger gongshow? was that a success?

    John, if you figure that one out, you should be the next President.

    October 21, 2013 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  16. 2020

    Jetranger, it sounds you are very eager to sign on to Obamacare.

    All good things don't come easy, at least it doesn't cost 25 billion dollars, B, get it?

    October 21, 2013 02:37 am at 2:37 am |
  17. wj350

    Sen McCain probably needs to revisit his definition of fiasco. A starting example might be his flying career.

    October 21, 2013 03:30 am at 3:30 am |
  18. Liz

    @Jetranger 650mil is nothing...almost every software or hardware the government has built forthem has ridiculous timelines and horendeous overhead that lines ppaper pushers pockets so the teams are often to small...which leads to chaos when things first launch. Trust me 650 mil is nothing compared to budgets for other projects. Course...private companies aren't exactly immune either every multimillion dollar MMO i've ever played launched with insane issues.

    October 21, 2013 04:08 am at 4:08 am |
  19. Andy father of two

    Feel free to remove the word "rollout" from the headline and I'm on board 100%

    October 21, 2013 05:05 am at 5:05 am |
  20. Hugh_Mann

    don't worry "The Maverick" will etch-a-sketch whatever he said by next month...it's a Reagan thing

    October 21, 2013 05:08 am at 5:08 am |
  21. mary

    So the web site is acting up.. And its "proof" health care for everyone , is a "fiasco"?
    I think its simply "proof" the web site is acting up~!

    October 21, 2013 05:12 am at 5:12 am |
  22. Jan

    Many of us in Arizona believe that Mr. McCain is a disaster as a Senator – major glitch in the system that he keeps getting re-elected. Huge laughter that the media reports on his thoughts about technology.

    October 21, 2013 05:26 am at 5:26 am |
  23. Kman66

    The website glitches will seem very minor in comparison to the havoc that will quickly follow the implementation of this law. I hope the people commenting here will be dignified enough to eat crow and apologize for blindly following Obama and this reckless and completely partisan endeavor. Obama has been able to lie his way out of every single crisis, with the help of a complacent media and clueless sheep such as yourselves, but this is the one that he cannot fix with words.

    October 21, 2013 05:26 am at 5:26 am |
  24. Rob

    And what did the shutdown fiasco cost?

    October 21, 2013 05:26 am at 5:26 am |
  25. George

    And if that is true, what are his thoughts about the Iraq War? The war he was so gun ho for? At least no one has been killed under the Affordable Care Act, trillions have not been spent. Do these guys not see that we remember what they did? Honestly the more they belly ache about Obama's budget being out of control the more I remember about Wall St bailouts and subsidies to oil companies.

    October 21, 2013 05:33 am at 5:33 am |
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