October 20th, 2013
10:26 AM ET
9 years 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.

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"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. MOCaseA

    Does this guy even thing he is relevant any more? When you have servers pounded by thousands of large requests all the time, the server gets overloaded. Simple internet fact (and one such teams like Anonymous relies on for their Denial of Service attacks). McCain needs to give it up, his attempts at doing anything productive, let alone advancing his political career, went down the tubes years ago.

    October 21, 2013 05:40 am at 5:40 am |
  2. leadreviewer

    This topic is brought up by the GOP to get peoples mind off the fiasco of shutting down the government un necessarily..
    Yes the site may be not working as expected but that will be corrected..
    The GOP needs to support our President and stop it with the insignificant shutdowns, and when the time comes they can focus on winning an election how about that for a strategy..
    The World is watching as they discuss switching to a new international monetary fund, and now with good reason thanks to the GOP.

    October 21, 2013 05:47 am at 5:47 am |
  3. Mark Weadon

    Here's a novel suggestion for MCCain and other Republicans: instead of vowing to kill the Health Care Act, how about working across the aisle with Democrats to fix the Health Care Law. No one on either site of the thinks ACA is perfect. Instead of gleefully pointing out all that went wrong with the rollout, let's get going to make it work. Is working to ensure ACa's failure really in the best interest of America?

    October 21, 2013 05:49 am at 5:49 am |
  4. Maripil

    The biggest fiasco to happen is republicans shutting down the economy while incurring 24 billion from it!!!

    October 21, 2013 06:18 am at 6:18 am |
  5. Mell

    Mr. McCain said loading up Air Force 1 with SMART people from Silicon Valley and bringing them back to Washington to fix the problem regarding the healthcare roll out. THAT'S HOW I FEEL ABOUT CONGRESS!!! Utilize your own prophetic advice. Currently, Congress is the definition of insanity. You know... doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.

    October 21, 2013 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  6. sifto

    Liberal motto–kill the messenger–but, -never a failed bill that obama is responsible for..

    October 21, 2013 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  7. minnie mouse

    The "Obamacare" rollout is not a fiasco. The fiasco was the government shutdown and the pending issues coming up in the next few months that can't ever seem to get a permanent fix and solution. The computer programing and glitches, these all can be fixed on the "Obamacare" healthcare.gov website. These problems are small compared to the governmental problems that are always ongoing. The government shutdown out weights the costs of the website problems, by far. These problems will get solved. The government problems, this will start all over again come Jan/Feb if something is not started now.

    October 21, 2013 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
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