October 20th, 2013
10:26 AM ET
12 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. Billy Bob

    So many ignorant people here. First, it's a 6 month rolling open enrollment. It's almost like they knew there would be problems so they accounted for that by having enrollment until March 31st. Second, it's not 450K people. It's 450K FAMILIES. And that is just in the first 2-3 weeks.

    See, the reason the right was so against the ACA is because they know people will like it. If it was the fiasco they were saying it's going to be, they would let the Dems make a mess and clean up during the elections. That's why they were so hell bent on stopping it before it took effect. GJGE GOP. LOL.

    October 20, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  2. maxtoo

    Yeah, affordable healthcare can't work. Look at the rest of the Western world. Oh, wait. THEY have affordable healthcare and are proud of their system.

    October 20, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  3. Qwen

    The website is having a hard time keeping up with the demand. I think the demand is showing that the Affordable Care Act is more popular than expected.

    October 20, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  4. Alpha Deus

    Let's see...the right have done everything they can to make this happen, states blocking exchanges and doing anything to try and break this up but they did the same under Clinton when Hillary tried to have a national healthcare...the right can do what they want but they will be looking at fines, extra expensive healthcare and looking longingly at the states that were first to adopt and playing catch up for years and their right wing poisoners will have toe explain why their people are paying 40% more for the same things...cos their leaders wanted it to

    October 20, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  5. sf

    whatnew websites do you know that have not had any glitches?!!! we've created websites at my job and have revised it i dont' know how many times, because people...especially americans, will never be happy or satisfied!

    mcain needs to retire already! sick of these old white farty republicans...go dig urself a hole and crawl in it!

    rather than bashing the healthcare LAW, why don't you come up with SOLUTIONS as opposed to constantly bash the president and the HCA

    October 20, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  6. Walt

    The program is much, much more complex than the program that delivers your car parts. And much of the complexity comes courtesy of all the political horse trading that went on to get it passed in the first place. I hear that some of the state programs are working rather well. Apparently Romneycare is workin OK in Masschusetts. Medicare Part D drew a lot of political heat initially but now seems to please our seniors. The state of medical system computerization is pitiful, we should have a much more efficient system for not only fiscal savings but improved medical research and treatment. Yeah, getting more and better IT and management skills is imperative, and not only from silicone valley. But it will take all of us pulling together, and that cannot be done with so many carping and working against progress and so many apathetic. Privacy issues impose excessive constraints, they must be loosened with legal sanctions tightened for those who abuse privacy.

    October 20, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  7. Mark51

    Why don't the people in Congress who oppose the health care program simply state the reasons
    driving their position – that their campaign donors, including the big insurance companies and
    companies or individuals related to the medical "industry", foresee a loss in revenue and
    increased costs if cheaper health care coverage becomes available to American citizens?

    October 20, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  8. FrmrRrine

    Like McCain knows anything. Why anyone still listens to this guy is beyond me.

    October 20, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  9. mwalker

    I believe that this so-called "fiasco" was intentional. I know that it's cynical, but after witnessing just how insane the Republican party has become...let me rephrase..Republican/Tea Party has become, it's pretty apparent that they really ARE prepared to crash the economy in order to take down the President. This includes sabotaging the very system meant to help Americans who lack access to the most basic of healthcare. It seems strange to me that someone like Microsft can fix a problem in a matter of days (yes, I know some have taken longer but......) and yet this single program runs like a failed high school project. All it takes is a wrong line of code, and it's author could easily render that untraceable back to him/herself. From the start Republicans have publicly said that they would make this a failed presidency, and they have the resources to accomplish something like this easily. It would be interesting to know which IT person involved in developing the Obama online system got an unexplained bump in income. This country will not survive unless we ALL step up, and I include the poor. Values, Honor,Mutual Respect, and Compassion cost nothing. But are worth far more than anything we're fighting about now.

    October 20, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  10. coby7016

    Ted Cruz is Democrat's plot to blow up the GOP party while the healthcare site was designed by GOP party to blowup the Obamacare.It is the worst web roll out in history

    October 20, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  11. oldesalt

    The mismanagement of the obamacare web site is typical of what happens when the government gets involved. It will be really interesting to see the mismanagement, waste and fraud that will take place in the obamacare system.

    October 20, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  12. rhtutyukuyk

    Hey alsoproud, why don't you get a clue. Your own party members are blaming the GOP for this government shutdown. The whole U.S. is blaming the GOP except about 3 % of the radical GOP members. The GOP is falling and you keep blaming the Democrats. Hate to tell you but your an idiot.

    October 20, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  13. Ted

    This idiotic John McCain. It's about time that he retires. I don't care if he's a war veteran. He was told by that crazy CNN woman on the show that 470K enrolled in Obamacare and McCain's answer was OH OK. Refute the fallacious claim could you? McCain is not a real conservative. His partner in crime, the Dems, have been driving this country into the ditch with their under the table deals for pork, pork, and more pork. Unbelievable.

    October 20, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  14. ChunkeeMunkee

    McCain knows what he's talking about. He's on the mark and hits the nail on the head and yet the people decided not to elect him President. He would have been a lot better choice than the joker they put in.

    October 20, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  15. lean6

    Right, Maverick...and i'm certain that they haven't been working around the clock, getting it up to par. (sarc) I'm really tired of the media, giving microphones to these predictable, obstructionist, vindictive, anti-democratic corporate shills. This constant aggravation of the American people with manufactured crises is equally business for the media as it is for the GOP.

    October 20, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  16. Joe

    I have an idea. Ehealthinsurance.com.

    Obamacare will fail. It relies in young people to subsidize it – people that don't need insurance and can't afford insurance. It's too expensive. It's too complicated.

    The community organizer has succeeded in waking people up. An they're pixxed off!

    The current situation proves its just like the DMV.

    October 20, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  17. *sigh*

    Rick- the Democrats are getting away with a lot of crazy crap because the Republicans are tripping over their own feet and fellating each other, thus making the Democrats look normal. An F student will make a D student look like a valedictorian. Republicans used to be able to keep Dems in check. Now they are simply bending over and letting the Dems bone them with impunity.

    October 20, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  18. Aaron S

    After reading many of these posts I have come to the conclusion that our nation is full of ignorant dummies. People find anyway possible to complain. If the site was functioning 100% there would still be a reason to whine. If by March 7 million people sign up people will still whine. If our nations overall healthcare prices decrease over the next decade people will find a reason to say it was because of something else. No matter how much I love this country the people that populate it are absurd.

    October 20, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  19. Steve

    The website has glitches, so let's take away people's health insurance.

    Republicans are looking for any pretext they can find, even whining about glitches on a website they never wanted Americans to be using in the first place.

    October 20, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  20. madelefant

    A lot of the computer work was done by a private contractor. Maybe they should have done it in house.

    October 20, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  21. Bill

    We need to just let everyone sign up for S.S. disability. Problem solved.

    October 20, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  22. robert

    dump obamacare – it is an unlawful mess, garbage! I do not care if the supreme court says it's lawful, as a tax possibly, everything else about it is a violation of rights.

    suggesting everyone should just pay the fine – as obamacare cannot survive on the fine alone, it'd collapse. It'd be the best 1% of our paycheck spent -

    October 20, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  23. rhtutyukuyk

    Hey buongiorno, you are wrong on "socialized medicine". First off the bill got passed, second off only Fox news is running their campaign to destroy Obamacare. The majority of Americans in a very large poll are in favor of it. But Fox news polls with 2000 GOP supporters show of course that they are not. The fact that you speak on behave of about 40 % percent of people that don't want "socialized medicine".

    October 20, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  24. HenryMiller

    "Solution? Fly in smart people from Silicon Valley"

    No, the solution is to shut down the site as part of shutting down Obamacare.

    October 20, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  25. joe d

    useless old man, if you aren't part of the solution then your the part of the problem. go back to that worthless tea bag state of arizona and retire . the a.h.c.a. is a success and losers like you won't admit it.

    October 20, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27