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. Mr Dalloway

    This is what happens when you close hospitals like Bellevue

    October 20, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  2. oharris30

    No Senator McCain, Your party and the tea party are the fiasco. To shut down the government on something as petty as healthcare issues shows just how much none of you really care about the American people. Only your own disgraceful agenda.

    October 20, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  3. Jobu

    So a politician who lost an election is trying to stop the legacy of the guy who won the election.

    Sound familiar???

    October 20, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  4. Carl

    McCain needs to retire from politics, he's rather mental at this stage of the game.

    October 20, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  5. oharris30

    No senator McCain, the fiasco is your extreme party and the tea party led by ted cruz. Go ahead try it again in January. I can guarantee you the GOP will never win the WHITE House again.

    October 20, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  6. Dc truth

    Ok, let's do something different here and say the truth for a change,

    Point one: we cannot afford to have our healthcare be the emergency room. Step up people and get the truth. Obama care is simply having all pay their fair share for health care, I am tired as a working man paying my health care deeds tables for all you folks who use me and the emergency room as your health care. No more free rides for those that can pay all pay their fair share. Those that really cannot then I can help and so can all of you working.

    Point two: Cruz cost me and the American tax payer $25 Billion. All over the world US is now seen as not willing to pay its bills. What a " patriot" Cruz is. He should resign and pay the treasury back, that's the real story.

    October 20, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  7. Eagle8921

    Told ya so! But the liberals stand in their huddled masses, bowls held high crying "can we have some more please".

    October 20, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  8. ironman59

    So all they can complain about at this point is the website not able to handle the massive load of enrollment. Where was this outrage when the same happened with the "Part D" under "W"? It wasn't there because this is what happens on a massive deployment with any website. In addition you have states which have not completed their portion corectly. In time this will all be worked out. Until then guess its time for another "faux scandal" from the gop.

    October 20, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  9. The Brutal Truth

    Of course it is a fiasco John. What did you expect? It to work properly? This is the Government trying to take over America's healthcare and drive it into the dirt with afterburners on.

    This was to be expected–the people in government work for government because they are not good enough to work in the real world. The contractors who contract with the government go so because they paid a campaign contribution to someone–not because they are any good.

    Wait until Obamacare starts hiring doctors to supply services for Obamacare–they will be as non-qualified as the quacks that work in the prisons as doctors. Of course, on the plus side, people will be dying a lot fast under Obamacare, so maybe it won't cost so much after all.


    October 20, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  10. JCS

    Funny how it's a disaster only because so many people are trying to sign up, showing a demand they said didn't exist.

    October 20, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  11. dmwinsd

    Toyota or someone just recalled almost a million cars because serious problems could be caused by spider webs blocking a drain pipe. So, recall the cars, fix them, and put them back on the road. No need to take up the news day after day yelling at Toyota.
    Similarly, the ACA software will be fixed. That's the way things work.
    If tax collection software didn't work do you think anyone would be yelling to shut down the IRS, do you? (Well, maybe on that one!)

    October 20, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  12. duh

    So McCain is elected to support and uphold the laws of this country. Last time I checked Obamacare was a law. So he should be working hard to make sure the website works and give it support. Instead he's questioning the validity of the law and no supporting in. And therefore not actually doing his job.

    October 20, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  13. Marlon45

    So the site has flaws, Well go cry a River you ole bag of Wind, Had they got on board & ensured everything was in place for it to operate effectively instead of trying to sabotage the efforts of the POTUS, lowlife losers!!

    October 20, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  14. Charles

    You go McCain!!!! We MUST make sure that Healthcare is ONLY for the wealthy.

    October 20, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  15. chutzpah

    EldRick... why limit it to government projects? I can't think of a recent major IT project related to the airlines, finance, new OS rollouts, etc etc etc, that hasn't been a disaster. Geez, every time Amazon changes their site design, it's a mess for weeks!

    October 20, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  16. kmyers

    John McCain is the Jessie Jackson of national politics. He interjects himself into every political situation without any solution. This man is the father of the Tea Party having selected the least qualified person to be his running mate in 2008. Obama care is not about a website John. It's about people having the opportunity to purchase health insurance, of which your party has nothing to offer, but "Yosemite Sam" sound bites. How was the roll out of Medicaid Part D? It was just as troubling and until this President showed up it had not funding source. Two weeks into the process let's give it a chance before we get the "Watergate " Hearings started. John McCain should be a statesman, but he has never put in the effort to assume that mantle, but he's ready willing and able to opine on everything without offering any solution, but hey it makes for great television.

    October 20, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  17. David G

    The FIASCO was your choice for VP." People that Live in Glass House..."

    October 20, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  18. chutzpah

    GeneK1953... you mean Facebook and Twitter ARE working correctly now????

    October 20, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  19. Magister

    Ah yes, John McCain, the Democrat's best friend.

    October 20, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  20. PuzzledInPeoria

    To quote Yogi Berra: "Nobody goes to that restaurant to eat because it's too crowded."

    You lost the election, Senator McCain. Get over it.

    October 20, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  21. DrVonBrain

    So there's technical problems with a web site. That translates into a bad policy according to McCain. Time to take your dementia pills McCain.

    October 20, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  22. Denese

    Let me guess...McCain feels Obamacare "crossed a red line" in their first few weeks of operation and now he wants to go to war?

    October 20, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  23. Porkka

    McCain and the beltliners abandoned their party and will pay.

    October 20, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  24. Jeff6187

    Dear John,

    I admire and respect you enormously. You've done more in service to the United States than almost anyone else alive. I voted for you. And I think the world of you .... except when you lower yourself into party vs. party mudslinging.

    The website is screwed up. It looks bad! Major problems. The Obama team blew it. The Obama team will fix it. And NONE of it has anything to do with the need and the importance of the actual Obamacare program. C'mon John, you're not a jerk. You know the importance of healthcare being available to every American because you ARE a great American. So let's just agree to stop the little kid stuff.

    Respectfully yours,


    October 20, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  25. Yankee Doodle

    So give Obama the power to spend as much money as he wants to! Oh wait, we already did.

    October 20, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
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