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. Skarphace

    I am in Oregon and I have heard first hand of many people signing up with no problems at all. However, we are a blue state and therefore embraced the process and actually started implementing our expansion to Medicaid before the ACA websites came online, so I guess that goes to show. The red states are represented by politicians that do not want the ACA to succeed, and therefore it doesn't in their states. Makes perfect sense.

    October 20, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  2. ellamvaram

    I respect greatly, one of Country's Statesmen, Mr. John McCain, but I wish to ask him whether at any time in his usage of today's electronic devices any of them ever gave him head-ache that he had to call the technician and the technician could not decifer at to what is wrong with his system. I may be one of those few 'dummys' who seems to have periodic glitches and just don't know why, until someone comes and fixes it for me. The same thing is the case with Obama Care electronic system; it doesn't seem to be able to cope with the enomous influx of the application. It is not the Obama Care itself. Therefore, I ask him why he's blaming the Obama Care? Can someone explain that to me? Please. Yes, some idiots were hired to put this new system together and they failed, not Obama as some Right-wing guys seem to say.

    October 20, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  3. It's Me

    It's not going to work if they continue to lie to us about where obesity comes from, that fructose is toxic to our liver, and that antibiotics wreck our gut and make us allergic to everything under the sun. yeast infections abound. Until they start telling us the truth people don't have much of a chance of dealing with their health. industry is actively messing people up to sell more drugs. That's the problem with having your health care run by oil banksters and wall street. This must stop. Note that they didn't make the government pay for it...that would mean the government would have to do something about it and they don't want that. It would step on their toes. They don't care if they kill us off or wreck the country...they want to protect the industries that are killing us.

    October 20, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  4. ken

    The flaws of the website opening has nothing to do with the meat and potatoes of the ACA. It is the registration that is being affected. Why is the roll-out of the software such a big political issue? McCain is grasping at straws to make it look like the ACA is not good.

    October 20, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  5. Michael

    McCain is irrelevant. This us a guy who couldn't even use a smart phone!

    October 20, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  6. billtowner

    Here's the bottom line on Obamacare, and let's stop using the shutdown malarkey as an excuse: Name one program that the government of the United States runs well.

    The answer is simple – NONE!

    I live in Taxachusetts, home of The Freedom Trail, provided you can afford the $100 to park and get near it. Do you think government intervention and mandates have improved our care? My rates have quadrupled in 10 years and my OV copays are now deductibles and have increased 1000%. All care is governed not by outcome, but by cost savings.

    THAT is what letting a government issue laws and mandates, and then, leaving it to private industry to run the show.

    You're all getting screwed. Democrat, Republican, Independent, liberal, conservative, moderate. You just are so self involved marking your territory over political ideologies that you just don't know it.

    October 20, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  7. clem

    The only fiasco is the repukes trying to be dictators to this country and their love of big companies. They all voted NO to end tax breaks to companies that outsourced our jobs. Seriously? They don't care about us.

    October 20, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  8. GeneK1953

    McCain was obviously not here in Silicon Valley to see how long it took sites like Facebook and Twitter to actually work correctly.

    October 20, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  9. ed dugan

    It's always interesting to observe big mouths like McCain, who never lifted a finger to give Americans the health care they deserve, jump to the forefront to critisize the work someone else did. This jerk foisted another big mouth, Sarah Palin on the American public and we have suffered her stupidity ever since. He epidimizes the failure of the republican party to get beyond the unbelieveable harm the tea party has done to our country. Nothing positive to add, just ignorance!

    October 20, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  10. Orb4

    The official assessment from the KING of FIASCO – I guess he thinks Obamacare is the same as having Palin as Vice President! The Palin fiasco would only be second in historical fiascos to a McCain presidency. The GOP is beyond unbelievable and better pay attention to what goes around comes around!

    October 20, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  11. Jetranger

    and the SHEEP keep being Sheep as usual !! Hey SHEEP -that web site cost over 650 million so far and still going up, that's TAX Payer Dollars, and ALL WE GOT was this lousy Error Message !!! Kinda like that saying, about the T-Shirt !

    October 20, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  12. Burton

    Bitter, Bitter, Bitter that's how I can describe John McCain he still hasn't gotten over te fact he lost the election in 2008. I say take away hs healthcare insurance and he will find out no one would insure him as he has so many pre-existing conditions. Bet he would be for e ACA then. Think about it!

    October 20, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  13. BOb the Prairie Dog

    So... let me get this straight: The Republicans are complaining about people not being able to access a program they don't want anyone to have in the first place? I'll be in the garage smashing my skull with a ball peen hammer until I'm dumb enough to rationalize that. Good thing I have health insurance...

    October 20, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  14. Chris

    I am Canadian and do not understand the bitter attitude toward health care for all in the U.S. Having numerous health problems if I was living in the U.S. I would be totally broke due to the high cost of drugs and health care. Should onl the well off have access to health care? To some this is socialism but I for one am glad I live in a country where I do not have to give up my house and car just to pay for an illness. We in Canada do NOT get free healthcare we have it only because we pay a percentage of our taxes through municipal, provincial and federal levels of government.

    October 20, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  15. GOPHypocrites

    Republicans strategy is FAIL. They can't lead so all they do is criticize.

    October 20, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  16. Rob

    I bet McCain still uses AOL like most old farts, so that automatically disqualifies him from judging ANY websites.

    October 20, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  17. OhioMario

    McCain, you are a fiasco, you big excuse for a senator.

    October 20, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  18. McCain is a vegetable

    He's just as much of a zuchini as Reagan was.

    October 20, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  19. rtkmd

    Congressional investigation. That's the way to fix it. No doubt there are lots of internet software experts on that committee. Not!

    October 20, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  20. manyote

    To John McCain, who "watches" the internet, just logging-on is probably a "fiasco".

    October 20, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  21. Shan

    Mr Mccain
    You are my hero sir. You represent the party of Lincoln
    God bless you

    October 20, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  22. gammay

    If the repubs had spent all this time trying to improve ACA instead of tearing it down, we'd have the most awesome health care in the world. For real and not just a talking point.

    October 20, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  23. Shan

    Mccain is 100% correct
    I am in the IT field and I know smart programers could fix it

    October 20, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  24. GeneK1953

    They SHOULD have just put the folks at the NSA data center to work on the site. They already have all the information needed to populate the fields on the application forms anyway.

    October 20, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  25. srcactus

    No name calling just facts;
    !Bill was not bi-partisan and has limited input and from limited vision, purely political
    Bill cobbled together by politicians and lobbyists for the sake of a bill and with out ample foresight or forethought.
    Law not properly vetted and implementation not properly tested.
    Haste roll out of incomplete product, what would one of normal intelligence expect?
    Good Idea, Bad bill.
    Only way to save this is to punt for a period of time and work out the bugs. The alternative is let it die, so better to fix it.

    October 20, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
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