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. justininrome

    "If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet." is starting to make a lot more sense now...

    October 20, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  2. single payer please

    No one is willing to talk about the fact that the United States simply needs to nationalize healthcare and make it a single payer system like just about every other healthcare system in the developed world. Health costs in the USA are outrageous because it is FOR PROFIT instead of for the people. These companies are publicly traded on the stock market and their only mission is to increase revenue, not provide better or cheaper service. That is why healthcare costs are going nowhere but up. That is why Medicare is growing out of control too.

    October 20, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  3. bob

    To the individual who got signed up in 20 min:

    I called Esperian 2X for verification ( that was in the first 2 weeks), and I upload a drivers license scan (over a week ago), and my ID is still under review,

    Just because you lucked out is no reason to name call.

    PS I have a PhD in the nuclear field so I "presume" I have at least 1/2 a brain..

    October 20, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  4. Truther

    McCain said "fly in smart people from Silicon Valley to fix Obamacare's website". This is why I'll never be a Republican. They don't let something like the facts get in the way of a good finger-pointing. HP (Hewlitt Packard) is responsible for the Obamacare website. HP is located in Menlo Park, CA (a.k.a Silicon Valley).

    October 20, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  5. giggy

    I worked with insurance when GW rolled out the changes in Medicare. Now that was a fiasco. You had no central place to inquire. Dr.'s , insurance co. did not know how to bill. Elderly people did not know who was there provider or what type of coverage they should have. The problem is that the republicans would not let the education of Obama care in state offices. We spent too much time mis-educating people than helping them to understand.

    October 20, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  6. gstlab3

    the NSA, IRS, DEA.., etc. can gather all internet traffic and monitor all cellphone communications to thwart terrorists but they can't register willing participants giving the government all the information they could ever want?
    This smells of a scam or worse coming out of Washington again.
    I suppose there is no scandal here either.
    who exactly is in charge of this drowning economy and devolving culture?

    October 20, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  7. enzo

    I find it very comical that all the liberals seem to think that conservatives will follow in LOCK STEP with them. The big question is WHY EXACTLY would they?????

    October 20, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  8. giggy

    But most of the mis education is coming from republicans.

    October 20, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  9. Al

    And how many HUNDRED's of MILLION of dollars did Obama sign off on to pay this company to build a site that does not work. For if it really did work, this administration would be boasting on the numbers of people that signed up for it. But it's not working for the people, it is however taking money from the tax payers, I wonder how much kickback the party is getting for using these people to build something that does not work.

    October 20, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  10. Fred Flintstone

    Mr. Slate just gave Barney and me complete health coverage, we have no use for this "redistribution of wealth" Obamacare silliness.

    October 20, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  11. Lenny Pincus

    Excuse me, Mr. Grumpy Guy. What did you do to help with the rollout?

    October 20, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  12. Jim in PA

    Pardon me for point out the obvious, but why would anyone need to fly to DC in person to fix program and code that is located on numerous remote servers?

    October 20, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  13. soul68

    McCain further elaborated what he meant by fiasco by referencing his 2008 presidential campaign.

    October 20, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  14. Andacar

    You must not have seen very many web rollouts coby7016. I've seen web rollouts that make this one look like a tiptoe through the tulips by comparison.That having been said there's no doubt the ACA website is an awful mess. I suspect it was contracted out to whichever company would do it the cheapest and fastest. One thing Congress should remember is the old (conservative) adage that you get what you pay for.

    The webpage has become a Tea Party punching bag simply because they have nothing else let to swing at for the moment. Uncle Sam: hire a decent webpage development company to fix this thing. End of problem.

    October 20, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  15. Matt

    "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." – John McCain

    Reading this, I picture federal agents roaming around Silicon Valley with oversized butterfly nets, looking to snare any hapless smart people that cross their path.

    October 20, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  16. emkathzak17

    Look up "nay-sayer" in the dictionary, and there's a picture of McCain. He loves to spend (especially on military), unless it's on something that he didn't think up.

    October 20, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  17. Honestly

    Wait, so now we're getting technology advise from the man who doesn't know how to use email? lol

    October 20, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  18. teamchaos

    630.000.000 and this is what we get another government failure. people talk about free health care in other countries. The first thing they will say is its free not about the dictors paid cssh to starve babies and old people to death. Look it up it was a big story in the uk. the government will have more control over your life your bmi is to high go on a diet or lose coverage. Anyone thats thinks the government csn do it better just look at the bankrupt states. This is a ponxi scheme to pay for social security. They have over spent on everything 600.000.000 for a website and it doesnt work it has security issues no wonder obama snd the dems have almost doubled the debt

    October 20, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  19. #failinghealth

    HAhaha....Fly in smart people from silicone valley to be president!

    October 20, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  20. chas

    ??? I have not had any issues with the site. Why do republicans keep making crap up, and holding hearings?

    October 20, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  21. joemama

    Bettering the lives of anyone but the wealthy, as we know, has ceased to be a concern of the Republican Party. But millions of Americans are on the brink of buying affordable health insurance and freeing themselves from a worry that makes their lives utter misery; the concerted effort backed by some of the richest men in this country to deprive them of that chance may be without precedent for sheer malice.

    October 20, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  22. Mark Roman

    The government needs to be transparent. No better place to start than at the top. The NSA has been monitoring President Obama's phone calls, emails and other communications for years, even before he was President. The time has come for the NSA to make public all records regarding President Obama. To the NSA person reading this, time to do the right thing. You don't have to expose yourself the way Snowden did, you can get the information out in other ways.

    October 20, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  23. Sensiblecitizen

    What this bozo still doing in politics? Isn't it enough he started destruction of Republicans by selecting Palin?
    And show me any website that never had issues. Actually, over-demand for ACA indicates how popular it will become.
    (Actually i think Republicans are mass logging in it to make most of the issues more worse).
    Also, Flying in smart people from Silicon Valley shows McCain's stupid approach (and Republuicans too) -Throw more bodies at the problem and just wish it goes away...All it needs is 2-3 IT enginners to have few days to fix it, and I am sure Washington DC has a lot of them.
    Its time to disband Republican party...

    October 20, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  24. gstlab3

    I will dare say this entire system of government and economic corruption has finally come into the light and the people are going to put an end to it very soon.,
    no matter how much the government prints money it cannot buy real security and freedom.,
    that can only be secured with property ownership and a real economy backed buy real economic output that produces saleable goods supporting the real careers not these slave wage wallyworld and burger flipping jobs.

    October 20, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  25. alfuc

    Senile McCain is at it again! He should be Syria fighting the Government there. So long OLD MAN.

    October 20, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
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