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. dpk66

    Throw the program and obamacare and start over writing a program that is 1. HONEST, 2. FAIR FOR ALL, REQUIRED FOR everyone with involvement of the people and not politicians

    October 20, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  2. LIBerateUSAll

    Wow. Thank you John McCain for that clarification. From all the media coverage and my own use of the site, I couldn't tell this was poorly planned, coded, and/or implemented. Shouldn't you be somewhere right now complaining that we aren't starting enough wars to spread freedom or democracy or whatever...

    October 20, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  3. Balls of Steel

    So in order to make Obama and his administration look back, he insulted all developers outside of Silicon Valley. Why Mr. McCain only Silicon Valley has smart people?

    October 20, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  4. Edward Cherrie

    The response was too good for the naysayers who won't accept anything President Obama does.
    No site could have been much better when 250000+ call to enroll at the same time.
    Over time, the problems will be corrected.
    Over time, people like McCain will hopefully die and leave this country to be run by sensible younger legislators.

    October 20, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  5. TTommy

    Obama had FOUR freaking years to build and test this site. They ran their first test 6 days before launch. And now you are defending it because it is so popular? Wasn't that the whole point? You Obama drones are beyond hope. Your messiah and his administration are an embarrassment to our country, and the world. The world embraced him when he was elected. He even won a Nobel Peace Prize and for WHAT? Dropping bombs? The hypocrisy of you lefties is something else.

    October 20, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  6. EdwardTr

    The website and its backend processes are not up to par, so what. It does not mean much regarding ACA as a whole.

    Right now we do not know the specific reasons the website is having as many issues as it did/does. Could it have been continuously changing requirements, which do not come just from the federal side but form each state as well? Could it be a bottle neck in a integration process to some external systems the website is using? Again not just federal but state systems might be involved. Was the system required to be too flexible to handle future changes at the cost of efficiency? We do not know at this point. Delaying the website and doing more testing would have been a nice luxury but not essential.

    October 20, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  7. majorbatguano

    But of course, Republicans wish to remind you that "no one wants Obamacare" yet, the site is overwelmed by the amount of people trying to sign up

    October 20, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  8. Nodack

    What would happen if Republicans stopped whining about Obamacare for a whole day?

    October 20, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  9. TTommy

    And you trust THESE GUYS with your health care? Good luck with that. And PS, thanks to all you twenty somethings to voted for your messiah. You are now bearing the brunt of Obamacare. You're paying for the elderly, whether you like it or not. But I know you'll feel proud of doing that when you make your first paid installment (tax) to Obamacare even though you don't need it.

    October 20, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  10. pyusmc66

    Agree with Corpsman. give them a reasonable amount of time to fix it. Any website has glitches on rollout. By the end of next week it will be working just fine.

    October 20, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  11. los

    Just went to the site, anyone on here is welcomed to visit the site as well.after you fill out your information you are prompted to call a 1800 number because the site cannot process apps at this time.i called the number they again took my information and I was told that they cannot give final $ amounts on the coast of insurance plans at this time but that my information was saved to expedite the process in the future.

    October 20, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  12. Paul McCann

    Mr. McCain, just what would you do, smoke no fire. What's your solution, nothing but hot air.

    October 20, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  13. john

    Sounds to me like those that set up the website didn't prepare for the volume of hits. Apparently the process is more popular than they anticipated. I'm sure they will get the bugs out of it. Guess it is an appropriate time for the repub's to jump in and criticize as they were busy last week screwing everything else up. McCain must not read anyway because if he know just how unpopular he was he would fade away like "Bush" and Darth Vader did.

    October 20, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  14. Megan

    The site was supposed to be a gateway to all of the individual state-run websites. It would verify your info and direct to your state's site. That was the original plan. The administration did not expect 24 states decline to participate. The website was never supposed to handle that much traffic. The Tea Party also made sure no more funding would be allowed to improve the website's ability to handle the increased traffic. Health & Human Services had to work with what they had. With all of the glitches, almost 500,000 applications were received. I'd say that's a pretty good start. The website was also plagued by people who were just curious and never intended on actually applying. Let's move on, people. Economy, jobs, immigration, tax reform, infrastructure. SOMETHING OTHER THAN THE ACA!!

    October 20, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  15. Joe

    McCain has is good by having Federal Healthcare and boy, do they give them the 'works' if they get so much as a 'hangnail' – perhaps this so-called 'war hero' should try to get by like 75% of the 'poor people' in this country and see how he likes that!

    October 20, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  16. Rob

    They may be should have contact the gaming companies like Sony Ent. and Blizzard, their website get millions of hit a day from around the world with no trouble.

    October 20, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  17. Steve

    Oh geez, where to start on this one. Fly people in, they have this called the Internet, programmers work from home these days. Secondly, in my 15 years as a programmer, throwing programmers at a complicated system is the worst thing you can do – you get more bugs that way. It scares me people this out of touch make the front page of CNN.

    October 20, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  18. billmosby

    Could be a solution, CGI is based in Canada although the unit that has been a U.S. Government contractor is based in Virginia. The overall company has not had a spotless record in the past, although it has had enough success that its government contracting business continues to grow rapidly. I imagine they already have a lot of people from Sili Valley, but perhaps there are better. Any way you go, this project will be big and susceptible to problems. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Illinois website I use, and another one for my pharma coverage, work very well. Obamacare should have been done better. It has been said that the effort was underfunded. Hard to tell, really, sitting on the outside.

    October 20, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  19. karl from az

    Can't do that: need to bail out canadian companies!

    October 20, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  20. rotorhead1871

    the ACA is the law of the land.....upheld by the supreme court. it is a good idea, but the deployment is horrible.....the devil is in the details......so it is up the administration to Fix it!!!......the uninsured need a plan....so FIX IT!! if it does not work....FIX IT.....
    in other words.......FIX IT NOW!!

    October 20, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  21. Eardley Ham Woodbury, MN

    The first big error the web design team made (probably at the insistence of the administration) was to require the user to register before shopping. I cannot think of an online store that does not allow you to shop and then purchase, usually not even requiring 'registration.'

    October 20, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  22. Path

    But it is a great idea and kind intention. Why can't you support it and save your own American from fear and worry?

    October 20, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  23. DaMenace1

    This doddering old man needs to go!
    All of this rhetoric is just him trying to keep his dying joke of a Republican Party alive and criticize the Dems whenever possible.
    I'm so tired of him offering inane solutions to issues that are already being addressed, like we don't know what's going on.

    October 20, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    CGI, the Canadian company that created the healthcare.gov website, off shored this project so of course it was a disaster. I am not surprised that the cost of the project tripled. I worked on an offshore project with IBM and it was a disaster that tripled in cost as well, to the financial benefit of IBM. Companies like CGI, IBM, Accenture, HP etc know that the bigger the disaster an IT project is the longer it takes so the more money they make in the long run. There is no such thing as a truly fixed price contract, they have mastered the art of asking for more money and they rely on their highly skilled sales and marketing teams to white wash what happened and paint disaster as "success".

    October 20, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  25. JackBriss

    Anyone signing up for this ACA is a total forest Gump.

    October 20, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
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