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. Tom Bertke

    Wow. Senator McCain and others are sounding more like characters from an Ayn Rand novel every day. "I know–let's just get a bunch of really smart people to come in and clean up this mess we've created." They still haven't figured out that after decades of rules, regulations, mandates, etc. by "really smart people who care", the only way they'll ever solve anything is to get out of the way.

    October 20, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  2. Pander Bear

    Great moments in Republican Revisionist History:

    Abraham Lincoln attempts to sign the Emancipation Proclamation but unfortunately the pen runs out of ink so they decide slavery is OK after all.

    Neil Armstrong attempts to set foot on the moon but his foot slips and he stumbles slightly upon landing. The GOP shuts down NASA and calls it a complete failure.

    The ACA website experiences some glitches in it's first couple of weeks of operation and the GOP declares the entire program a failure and tries to shut it down – for the 41st time.

    Conservatives never built anything, never created anything and never help anyone.

    October 20, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  3. myke

    Yep, this health care reform will be great once the government fixes all of the glitches. Just look at what happened when the government took over the Postal Service....oh, wait...

    All of you people that are saying that government run health care actually works...why do you think that people from other countries (i.e. Canada) come to the U.S. for major surgeries? Do a little unbiased research and you will see that government run health care is a nightmare...like every other government run agency. Compare the lazy, overpaid, and grumpy U.S.P.S. employees to those of Fed Ex, UPS, & DHL.

    October 20, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  4. Belarius Marek

    I read in Computer World that Infosys is the hosting company.. If this is true, then that is one of our major problems. Infosys is an Indian company out of Bangalore. I used to work for IBM and they outsourced everything to Bangalore and the support was horrible. Most of the time they had unskilled and unintelligent people manning the servers. Most of the time they would lie and say they were someone, whom was expected to have the skill set, and share their ID. Our country has sold us all out to the third world and this is what we can expect going forward.

    October 20, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  5. klamerus

    Here's a news flash for you. It's those "smart" people from Silicon Valley that may have put this site together.

    Seriously, the reason this site sux, is that the government (as usual) hired their cronies (who probably have a cozy kickback arrangement with them) to build it. This site just wasn't/isn't that hard to build, but it is when you have a clown show called our government.

    October 20, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  6. mcp123

    Fear ... panic... all the republican playbook. The website works... and people are getting in and signing up. I have been able to sign up.

    So they didn't anticipate the load on the servers well... doesn't mean you throw it all out. You fix it and move on... republicans are just worried that the ACA will eventually reach 90% positive ratings like Social Security and Medicare already have... you know... pretty much the same thing as the ACA.

    October 20, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  7. perry

    The US government so far has spent $400 millions of creating the useless website, so do we have to start over and spend another $400 millions to create a new one??

    October 20, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  8. Andres

    Everything is a reason for the Republicans to start bickering over Obamacare. Give it a rest now and let the people have some peace of mind. A glitch on a website on a massive national campaign roll out is not something unheard of.

    October 20, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |

    How many actually signed up Obama? Please tell us.

    October 20, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  10. Ranger Dan Parsons

    Congressional hearings on why the roll out has been bad? That's like investigating a car crash before you've got the victims out of the cars yet. Just fix the damn thing. Republicans have become better at finger pointing than anything. Obviously someone didn't do a very good job on the preparations for the roll out. Most likely there were private contractors involved in. Don't use them again please. Making this a political tool is stupid and a waste of time.

    October 20, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  11. VJ

    When we lost 24 billion dollars due to shutdown, but on the same Ted Cruz and his buddies made millions of dollars for their political campaign. This is really shame on Tea Party.

    October 20, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  12. denise

    We all need affordable health care. I'd rather my tax dollars go to all people being able to go to the doctor or hospital. I do and do not care what happens in other countries, but not to the tune of trillions of dollars. Educate educate

    October 20, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  13. JjkName

    John McCAIN DISPLAYS profound ignorance with his proposed "fix". The complexity of setting up this site which has to work with 50 state sites is very large and the fact that there are initial problems is not unusual with a site of this magnitude and the number of hits that it has received. When these problems are overcome and the true story of public receptivity to the ACA becomes more obvious, then the Republicans will once again be seen as the obstacle to progress in this country that they have become! No solutions just destructive efforts to hurt the country!

    October 20, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  14. pinochled

    There's no hurry. We have until December 15 to sign up for coverage starting in January.

    October 20, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  15. bearitstrong

    John McCain... the GOP "expert" on everything.

    October 20, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  16. Fiona

    Laughing at the "fly in smart people from Silicon Valley" thing. Does he not understand the nature of the Internet? Such work can be done remotely. The man is out of touch!

    October 20, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  17. Aerin

    Absolutely we have the people who know how to do this in Silicon Valley. And we have the will to do it too.

    Let's make this work.

    October 20, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  18. pinochled

    There's no hurry. We have until December 15.

    October 20, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  19. Federico Escobedo

    Solution: Simple, just give them a bit "more funding" and a few more years to get it right. That's all.

    October 20, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  20. Josh

    Seemed to work fine for me when I signed up on Friday night.

    October 20, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  21. Jubei

    Obamacare is the best thing to happen for the good of all the people in this country. Period.

    October 20, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  22. MIchael

    We would be a better nation, a more secure nation if we could find a way to provide basic healthcare for everyone. Other countries do it. -Many people don't even know how to argue this because their opinions are knee jerked around the word "socialism".

    Going bankrupt for a trip to the ER is ridiculously stressful for a family, a community, a nation.

    Before more and more people get invested in hating Obamacare I would encourage them to decide if they want America to work toward affordable healthcare for all. Yes or No. And if Yes then make the vision work. Turn Obamacare on its head but make your vision work. We are so distracted, lost in political wranglings that we don't know what values we want to invest in to shape our country. More we know what we want to destroy. America cannot be made whole on hate.

    I think basic healthcare for everyone is a noble vision. And worth struggling for. It doesn't have to be Obamacare as it stands.

    October 20, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  23. Yuri

    That's a laugh, mrkhrrs. Repulitards have far worse messes that they can't fix because they're too stupid to see their own problems.

    October 20, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  24. Jerry Okamura

    Think long term, not short term. Find out how fast the cost of health insurance will rise. Then find out how many people's take home pay will rise as fast and how many will not rise as fast.

    October 20, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  25. bravo

    I see no problem, just a few glitches. All current problems and all future problems with Obamacare shall be identified by Obama, his mainstream media, and Obama enthusiasts as simply being glitches. Nice word.

    October 20, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
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