October 20th, 2013
10:26 AM ET
1 year 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. Aaron S

    The doctor shortage isn't because of ACA!! It is probably because everyone wants to sue. There better money elsewhere, why work for a system that people do not appreciate.

    October 20, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  2. Won

    I can't believe that old fart is still .. there. That senile is collecting disability benefits, welfare, food stamp, and yet he complains. What an OLD FART HE IS!

    October 20, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  3. Ken

    Why do people who have no understanding of how technical systems are successfully developed feel qualified to dictate remedies when things go wrong?

    Sure, there appear to be plenty of things wrong with the website, but the last thing you want to do is bring in "fly in smart people from Silicon Valley." Unless you want to slow down fixing the system. Oh...

    October 20, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  4. Jim Davis

    Instead of helping or fining a program to ensure the heath of all Americans, the GOP will laugh at it. Not impressed. Hope none of them get reelected.

    October 20, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  5. Vance Smith

    Everytime I ask a Dem about the AHC they have no problem loggin onto the site and get excellent coverage premiums. Dems with coverage say their premiums stayed the same.

    When I ask a Rep the site is messed up and their premiums are going up.

    Somebody is not telling the truth.

    October 20, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  6. rhtutyukuyk

    Hey Rick McDaniel are you using the excuse that the GOP is using? How the GOP members didn't read the bill and they were lied too. The fact that they admit not doing there jobs is funny. They had a almost a whole month to read that bill when they had off in August so don't tell me it was pass through fraudulent methods because its almost impossible to pass something like that when the GOP controls the House. Looks like the Fox news cronies are out today after church.

    October 20, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  7. Jim

    McCain knows a thing or two about fiascoes

    October 20, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  8. fed up

    You know what I find odd? The company that was contracted to roll out "he althcare. gov", CGI, is a CANADIAN COMPANY!!!!! These liberals make me sick when they complain about large companies outsourcing jobs, then turn around like the HYPOCRITES they are and outsource jobs themselves. You cannot tell me there were no AMERICAN companies that wanted this contract. Why is stuff like this not covered in the liberal media??? The need to protect their king, obama??? obama and his liberal cronies stand to make millions in kickbacks off this contract. Liberals and their obvious hypocrisy make me sick!!!

    October 20, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  9. Chuck

    Hey John! Didn't you block implementation of a healthcare exchange site dedicated for Arizona residents by refusing the federal grant to build one? If you did like all the other GOP states run by children, then you have nothing to complain about.

    October 20, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  10. oldsarg

    As a "former" republican as of last week, McCain is the reason I resigned.

    October 20, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  11. norm

    I dunno, as a Canadian I've always found it kind of funny watching Americans go broke as they die of illness... not to mention the vultures in my country love your 'business closing due to illness"... what a great nation you are.. NOT! A gulag who'd rather spend their money on prisons :) I love it, you may me feel mighty superior indeed.

    October 20, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  12. Jakinak

    Revealing his true nature, McCain recommends spending more tax payer money to have the private sector do what tax payers already paid a bunch of government employees to do.

    October 20, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  13. gmenfan54

    The Republican Party is also a "fiasco".

    October 20, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  14. An American

    No one wants socialized medicine. How can you call it affordable when my out of pocket costs are going up about 12%? I can't afford it now and our government wants to force me to pay more to the insurance companes? Why is this a good thing? They should be going after the high costs, not lining the insurance companies pockets.

    October 20, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    Iraq war passed and smooth. "Obama Care passed and it is a disaster to the "American People?" Erik Cartman is shaking his belly.

    October 20, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  16. Tim

    No mention how Obama gave the $100 million deal to a private web company that he worked with before he was President to build this site. And this site should've only cost a few million, not $100 million. Why didn't he just hire the same web people Amazon uses? They receive 20 million visitors a DAY and their site stores way more information that insurance sites. Amazon would've done it for about $10 million. Another example of Obama throwing money around without ANY oversight. How could anyone NOT know this site wouldn't work after 2 years of being worked on? Unreal.

    October 20, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  17. Smarterestest Human

    Ask him if he uses WiFi G, N or A/C Network and he'll look at you like a deer trapped in the headlights. He's a clueless old fool. Someone should shut this clown up.

    October 20, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  18. Chuck

    I think you should blame Gov. Brewer for refusing to build an exchange dedicated to Arizona residents. She refused the federal grant to build one which would have been more efficient just like all the other little child governors who didn't get their way. If you're an Arizona resident having signup issues, then you can put that blame squarely on your governor.

    October 20, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  19. paulc

    They berate the ACA but have no suggested replacement.
    To give healthcare to the people is socialism but they enjoy the best healthcare the taxpayers can afford.

    October 20, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  20. Raj

    John McCain. How does it feel to have such an irrational opposition to Obamacare and still be closer to the center than a big portion of your party?

    October 20, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  21. Bella's Mom

    Although the web site is far from perfect, it can be improved and will be What the real fiasco is Sarah Palin as Vice President , so Senator McCain we are thankful you did not win the election and feel strongly that you should become a RETIRED senator. Watch out, the Tea Party will be on the attack and your name is undoubtedly on the list.

    October 20, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  22. fred

    That's right there is a need for smart people in Washington. For once McCain is completely right.

    October 20, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  23. T E X A S

    Republicans...the arm chair quarterbacks of America.

    October 20, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  24. weedouthate

    Just imagine Republicans and Democrats weeding out hate on Capitol Hill together, harvesting the dandelions into a new Tea Blend. An herbal remedy for Congress, facilitating deeply rooted rhetorical discussion, respectfully illuminating all relevant points of view, to the point where it would be difficult to distinguish the Republicans from the Democrats.

    October 20, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  25. Ed Miller

    Obama has pushed and required computer technology not only for Obamacare but for all health related administration, health records and billing. He has forced physicians and hospitals to rapidly acquire it and to abandon the old. We are now seeing the foolishness of this rush toward unproven new technology and the complete abandonment of tried and true older systems (ie not backup plan) There should have been a paper backup option available and it should be staffed with real people and not computer (no one's responsible) geeks.

    October 20, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
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