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. SFRich

    Ted Cruz says that Obamacare needs to be stopped because it hurting people. Exactly who is that, and how is it hurting?

    On the other hand, someone that lost their job because their employer of 30 years went out of business as the result of the economic meltdown of 2008 and cannot get insurance due to a precondition... HOW ARE THEY BEING HELPED by the dumping of Obamacare?

    Cruz cares so much, but it's not about people that need healthcare. He cares about the insurance and healthcare companies keeping their status quo that has a strangle-hold on the economy.

    October 20, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  2. Stephen

    He is just mad that more people tried to get on the site than voted for him! Loser.

    October 20, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  3. Ron

    Won't it be great when these same government incompetents are the ones delaying your medical care till you are dead. After all, it's cheaper that way.

    October 20, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  4. ItSoNlYmE

    John McCain is a fiasco, and yet he's still around. I love the fact that the GOP can't find anything else to complain about with Obamacare except for the TOTALLY predictable issues with the web site being overloaded with Americans flocking to sign up for health insurance. Would that all our problems were so severe. Perhaps if the GOP had gotten on board with the fact that Americans WANT this program and actually helped put it together, instead of simply saying "no" to everything about it, it would be working better. REMEMBER IN NOVEMBER!

    October 20, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  5. Dilan Nater

    Of course a Republican health care plan would be much better and have no IT problems whatsoever, but OH WAIT a minute, the Republicans DO NOT have a plan for people with no health care, or a plan to help all of the baby boomers who WILL need their Social Security, or a plan to feed the poor in the US of A, or a plan for anything that cost money other than of course defense, and fighting wars, and buying tanks, and guns, bullets, and for spreading fear. Hey America, is that what you REALLY want? Duh.

    October 20, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  6. 1twinsfan

    See, we told you that thing that is law, that we should support as representatives of the people, that we should ensure is working isn't just because we wanted to make the President look bad. See! Yeah. Now who looks stupid? - GOP

    October 20, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  7. John/kc

    Why can't the republicans be constructive? Why must we always hear complaints about everything from both sides? Lets face it, if it were not for the uncooperative red states as far as ACA is concerned, the roll out and benefits would have been much better.

    October 20, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  8. asdrel

    Yes, McCain's plan would have been much better. What was his plan again? Oh, wait... Never Mind.

    October 20, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  9. notfooledagain

    The website is probably the best part of Obamacare.

    October 20, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  10. Robyn


    Republicans in Congress force nonsense changes into the Health Care Law,
    Then whine about the very nonsense changes they introduced and voted for.
    This is the definition of abuse of power and office, they must be voted out of
    office to restore honor and sanity to our national debate.

    The Republican Congress has become a clear and present danger to the people of the United States.


    October 20, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  11. notfooledagain

    The website is probably the best part of aca.

    October 20, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  12. Nodack

    Republicans waste no time moving on to the next attack. I sure wish they could put as much time into trying to do something helpful for America once in a great while.

    October 20, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  13. Tom

    And McCain is the world's #1 expert on fiascos, so he should know what he is talking about!

    October 20, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  14. Loathstheright

    Odd, I didn't have any trouble signing up.

    October 20, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  15. Nodack

    "Seth Hill
    If you want to shut down Obamacare, here's how: Enter a bill in Congress that shuts down Obamacare; have Congress vote on that bill. I thought that was the way our Representatives and Senators were supposed to do their jobs."

    They have done that 42 times already. The Republican controlled Senate passed it 42 times, but as they well knew it had zero chance of passing anywhere else.

    October 20, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  16. ImvotingforHillary

    How about just contacting a health insurance company directly and just buy a policy? Easiest solution.

    October 20, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  17. Tony in STL

    The only fiasco in this country is the republican party. Everyone else is trying to progress.

    October 20, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  18. EldRick

    Meanwhile, for those of us who have memory left, No large state or federal government IT project has Ever come in on time, under budget, or fully successful.

    Take the California DOT Drivers License systems as a repeated disaster that has eaten up hundreds of millions of dollars of Californians taxes, and all down the drain.

    So why on earth would anyone expect that this one would be any different?

    October 20, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  19. Jeb

    Here's the deal:

    McCain opposed the shutdown.

    He has to apease the crazies in his party by criticizing the Affordable Care Act.

    Basically his criticism boils down to, "The ACA is so popular the web site keeps getting overwhelmed by people wanting to sign up."

    October 20, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  20. Paul

    Surely a thoughtful person understands that there is a difference between a program (ACA) not working and a website not working.

    October 20, 2013 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  21. Brian

    The first week of sign up in Washington state 40K started the process, 20K completed it, 10K were processed and approved, with another 10K "in process". The other 20K simply have to finish. The first week. Of course we have our own website. Shouldn't have had a Canadian company do the federal website. Probably did it in kilometers. But a lot of people are being helped. The website stuff is merely a red herring for the Tealiban.

    October 20, 2013 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  22. mikeaceshadow

    I have tried 8 times and still no success. Have to fill out the application every time. Does not save where you left off. Top person of the department should respectfully resign.

    October 20, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  23. Brian

    So, they don't link to the site? How does the reporter get away with that?

    October 20, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  24. Fair is fair

    It gave my computer a virus and then cleaned out my bank account

    October 20, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  25. GT58

    If you can't defeat the original legislation, and then fail by use of extortion, complain about a website. Just makes them look more foolish.

    October 20, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
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