October 20th, 2013
10:26 AM ET
10 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. Fair is fair

    Obamacare is the worst idea since cash for clunkers! Soon we will all be govt employees!

    October 20, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  2. tp1776

    Senator McCain, don't fight the health care act, work to fix it, make it better. People need health insurance; keep them in mind, won't you?

    October 20, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  3. Lisa

    Our goverment needs to take a good look in the mirror and then get their act together and set an example.

    Our country talks about bullying at schools and how children are committing suicide over it. Our work place talks about harrassement and zero tolerance and sends employees to numerous seminars about it and is a state law in many places. And you wonder why it doesn't stop??

    Take a good look at our country. It's in the media everyday on how our goverment can't even get along. The Republicans and Democrates are publically bullying each other and showing harrassement. I think all of congress should be fired and select new group of representatives because they sure are not representing ALL AMERICANS well.

    Goverment – Set an Example – stop the bullying and harrassement.

    October 20, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  4. California

    ObamaKare itself is a fiasco.

    October 20, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  5. alf564

    Intentional Pitfall #1: Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

    ObamaCare essentially "robs Peter to pay Paul." How?

    Well, if you're a senior, you'll be fleeced by the $716 billion in Medicare cuts designed to substantially fund the ObamaCare plan over the next decade.

    As you'll read in the ObamaCare Survival Guide, the biggest Medicare spending cuts will come in two key areas you need to know about in order to protect yourself.

    And that's just the beginning . . .

    October 20, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  6. disanitnodicos

    When you're writing that check for doubled premiums every month, don't forget who caused it, and who tried to stop it.

    October 20, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  7. Smarterest Human

    Stick a SOCK in it, McBlame.

    October 20, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  8. Alan

    Republicans have learned nothing!!! Republicans are so pathetic that they will pick on any little thing to bash Dems. Republicans lost over the Obamacare fight and are now spending time and tax payers' money complaining about the Obamacare website. Republican's cost the economy $24 BILLION with their tantrums and hostage taking. Republicans have spent MILLIONS of dollars with their 40+ attempts to repeal Obamacare. Republicans should be focusing on the real issues like the economy, clean renewable energy, rebuilding America's infrastructure, making sure the American people have access to health services, helping the hundreds of thousands of unwanted children in the foster care system, getting people back to work and many other caring humane acts.

    October 20, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  9. darth's daughter

    Obamacare = bogo, get rid of it!

    October 20, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  10. darknesscrown

    Are the Republicans going to go after private companies whose websites crash and who ask a lot of questions for products they sell that are in high demand as they are with Obamacare? Just wondering, because Gmail crashed a couple times...and so did the Apple Store briefly when the iPhone 5S/C came out. I think that warrants an investigation by the Republicans.

    October 20, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  11. Jeff

    I will regain my ability to walk with Obamacare, I desperately need Obamacare. Am I worried that the website isn't working? Give me a freaking break. That's ridiculous. I know they'll get it working. I'll be patient.

    October 20, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  12. dkeller2929

    not as much of a fiasco as your run for president mccain

    October 20, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  13. Kevin

    Universal healthcare was done in Massachussetts and nearly 75% of the people there like it. When it was first rolled out they also had technical problems which took about 6 mos to resolve–not suprising if you've ever done any web development on a project this size. The national one is of course even bigger, so developers are not expecting it to work smoothly yet.

    All the interactions from clients and unpredicted, complex user family scenarios have yet to be included. (For example, say you are old enough to be a Medicare recipient and your spouse is not and you and your spouse and minor children have different last names.) The developers will get there. They are cataloging all these different scenarios and adding them to the system.

    October 20, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  14. Ahmad

    There are smart people in other parts of the country too. I can fly (actually drive to) DC help with website. Guaranteed :-)

    October 20, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  15. DrJ

    This is rich. A self-proclaimed computer illiterate (Google McCain + computer) weighing in on this site. No shame! Clearly there are problems with the site that should have been resolved before it went public...but having someone who has to have someone else log onto the internet for him is not what you would call an "expert witness". Once again, the media is giving McCain another "15 minutes of fame"...except it has added up over the years to be years!!

    October 20, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  16. noteasilyswayed

    I I wish these "lifer" politicians would get off the television..... here's another example of a lifer who has nothing positive to contribute..... they should all get together and try to find solutions to the deficit and debt, and stop complaining about irrelevant things. McCain needs to be voted out in the next election, along with most of these old white guys who are in Congress.

    October 20, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  17. Jack33

    It seems people are hung up complaining about the first 3 or 4 days of problems...those days have passed. As far as I can tell from signing in multiple times recently, the website is working fine.

    October 20, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  18. Robert

    As an IT person with 30 years of experience this is a fiasco. Several things that stick out in my mind here. First, the fact that requirements were delivered late by the government is a huge issue with IT development. Always has been – always will be. Second, no system like this should cost almost a half a billion dollars. No way. Third, sorry Mr. McCain flying Air Force one out to silicon valley is not going to help. I agree with the other poster who stated they can work remotely. Fourth, are we a nation that has become so inept in running projects that we could not do this effectively? Is this where we are headed? I hope not. A sad, sad day for our technology prowess as a nation.

    October 20, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  19. Webdude

    McCain shows how out of touch he is with technology. First, he thinks the only people that know something about building scalable web sites reside in SIlicon Valley. LOL. Next he thinks that they must be on site in Washington to fix the technical issues. Double LOL.

    October 20, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  20. Cooler

    Web site issues will be surely fixed but they do not change the known facts about Obamacare:
    – Medicare beneficiaries had already saved billions on prescription drugs because of Obamacare, which gradually closes a gap in prescription coverage since 2011
    – insurance companies that spend more than a specified portion of premiums on administrative costs and profits must give a rebate to enrollees
    – the health care exchanges could reject premium increases that insurers propose if they think they are too high.
    – small businesses under 50 workers are not covered by Obamacare. If small businesses choose to cover their workers,
    they gets 35% tax credit for covering. The credit goes to 50% from 2014
    – Obamacare reins in waste, fraud and abuse by imposing tough new disclosure requirements to identify high-risk providers who have defrauded the American taxpayer. It gives states new authority to prevent providers who have been penalized in one state from setting up in another
    – and of course no life time coverage limit and no denying of coverage due to preexisting conditions

    October 20, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  21. James

    California's exchange works fine. The problem is in the states that refused to obey the law...interesting huh?

    October 20, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  22. Stephen Hoard

    So is Senator McCain provide the money for these experts or is this another expense that the Republicans will whine about?

    October 20, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  23. darknesscrown

    Non-issue. Next. Why aren't the Republicans investigating why the Apple Store website collapsed briefly after the iPhone 5S/C were released for sale due to excessive site traffic? Or how about when Gmail or Outlook go down briefly. Definitely need the watchdogs in the GOP to handle that. Bring them all to Capitol Hill to explain themselves.

    These friggin' clowns. Why do they even show up to work anymore? The Republicans shut the government down for absolutely nothing and threatened to stop paying our bills and still they talk like they are there for us. I hope Obama slaps them around again in January and February.

    October 20, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  24. Greg C.

    For every lemming that speaks positively about ObamaCare...that shows how ignorant and detached you are from reality. There's absolutely nothing good to come out of this...the sign-up process is just the tip of the iceberg of what can expect from the dysfunction, political favoritism, cronyism, and outright malfeasance this administration has brought and the shameful role the liberal media has played to thrust this crap on Americans is abdominal.

    October 20, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  25. rocketcityguy

    Probably still works better than Congress, though that's not saying a lot.

    Still waiting for a GOP alternative. Oh, that's right, they don't have one.

    Also, I'd like an apology from the Speaker and the rest of the GOP who caused and supported the shutdown. Through lost wages and income, I have been essentially taxed an additional 20% on top of my federal tax for their anti-ACA stand/anti-democracy tantrum. Not quite the "lower taxes, less intrusive government" outcome, eh?

    Maybe "W" will lend them his "Mission Accomplished" banner....

    I say that the GOP has demonstrated that it cannot be trusted to use the power with which they have been invested, so they should lose the House majority, too. I certainly won't be forgetting this a year from now.

    October 20, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
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