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. bassmaster22

    Holy smokes, how is forcing people to buy private insurance "socialized medicine?" You know what socialized medicine is? MEDICARE! Get rid of that too then! Don't want the government involved in your health? Tell Viriginia to get rid of mandatory ultrasounds.
    Always entertaining to watch people mislabel something as "bad" and then support the things that really are because they've decided selectively that they allign with their blelief system.

    Just say what you really mean: People should be turned away from hospitals if they can't pay or don't have insurance. That's what you really want. I bet the magic man in the sky is so proud.

    October 20, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  2. Teddyg

    I had no problem getting onboard in MN. got my same insurance for about $50 less per month. Its those pesky red states who's state leadership wouldnt develop their own web exchanges that are the ones having problems. ...And who's the nutcase posting here that is still calling this socialized medicine? If you don't like the fact that people are getting their insurance subsidized, then raise the friggin' wages.

    October 20, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  3. drefromla

    funny, it only took me 20 minutes to sign up for health care on the website, but oh yeah, i have a brain.

    October 20, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  4. tony

    Mitt Romney has a Chinese team, on his roof rack, ready to go!

    October 20, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  5. Jeb

    If Republicans didn't spend all of their time saying no to everything, maybe they could actually get something done for the American people.

    Here's a complete list of every proposal Republicans have put forward to reform our health care system, reign in costs, and provide access to affordable health care for American families:


    October 20, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  6. El J

    You can't just move a few folks over from the NSA to fix this little high school project of Obama's? This is ridiculous! Maybe the Chinese can fix it for us?! Nonsense! Just nonsense!

    October 20, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  7. mim

    Our monthly premiums just went up $45.00. That's $540 a year increase because of Obamacare which forces us to look at Obamacare or other than Blue Cross who we've had a long time. I think the big Insurance companies are going to lose a lot of customers. My mother never had health insurance and never needed it. She was always healthy until the day she died. Smart gambler.

    October 20, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  8. Cory111

    I see they have let John out for a walk.
    Hillary 2016

    October 20, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  9. jez oh peete

    My country is a joke

    October 20, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  10. bill

    Better yet, get rid of social security too. It's got the word "social" in it. That'll never happen...people love getting free money from the folks currently working.
    No, you didn't pay in to it. You paid for someone else, now someone's paying for you. Socialism. Deal with it.

    October 20, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  11. Freedom Storm

    John, where have you been? Now you're riding the coattails of this fiasco and now have something to say?

    October 20, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  12. Robert Daniels

    So I wonder how those street people who use the emergency room for healthcare are going to sign up for Obamacare? I cannot envision them sitting at the library at a computer – probably the only way they could sign up. Or that they are even aware or care about it.

    October 20, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  13. Mike

    This is a stupid strategy from the party that invented stupid. Focusing on the IT problems of Obamacare does not undermine it. In fact, it makes it more popular. Like the new gadget people can't get and stand in lines for hours to obtain, the allure brings more people to healthcare.gov. And by whining about how healthcare.gov doesn't work, it makes more people curious about healthcare.gov, and before you know it, millions are on healthcare.gov, looking around and getting information about insurance on healthcare.gov.

    See how stupid it is? Don't go to healthcare.gov. Healthcare.gov doesn't work. Healthcare.gov is a disaster.

    Um, Senator McCain, can you give us that web address one more time for our viewers at home?

    They better change their mascot to a mastodon, because that is where they are headed: extinction.

    October 20, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  14. bankshotter

    Silicon Valley to the rescue? that would be the last resort for Barack and Kathleen. the moment that they let those folks have a look at this [given the data base corruption issues compounded by the server interface FUBAR/SNAFUs] we would learn that this will take another 2 yrs to design and implement. Kathleen will soon throw the HHS technocrat wonks under the bus. those folks have to be having some sleepless nights about now. "Sleepless or Clueless in DC" – what a good name for this movie, huh?

    October 20, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  15. Stevelb1

    They need to hire a bigtime CIO from a large corporation to manage this project.

    October 20, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  16. Greg

    Then why did you vote it into law?

    October 20, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  17. Big_D

    Maybe it wouldn't be so ridiculous if the Congress would do their job and quit trying to undermine a law the people wanted and more they didn't get because of the GOP and Lieberman. We pay 300% what other countries do for healthcare and they have care for all and 36 rank better than we do. Our system is wrong and it is immoral.

    October 20, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  18. Paul R

    Wow. First it was 11 million uninsured. Then it was 25 million. Last week, there was 35 million uninsured. This week it's 48 million. When the media and politicians just start making up numbers out of thin air it's time for the American people to wake up.

    October 20, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  19. Eric

    Hard to knock McCain on tech issues. He did get Apple to fix the app update annoyance on their phones....

    October 20, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  20. Larry in Houston

    YES, it IS a fiasco – it's downright pathetic – & Obama knows it. They should have "tested" it, months & months ago.
    BUT, like a lot of people have said, Obama doesn't have the kahunas to Fire anyone. He's the type of guy that will let people do what they want, and he constantly "looks over" people in his administration, that constantly makes mistakes, and continued failures. I hate to name names, but the director of Health & Human Services is only 1, then you've got the attorney general, and the list goes on.
    I guess if I would love to be employed by, or have a boss like Obama, where I can Just barely get by, doing my job, or Just have a dismal work record, and continue to do so, as long as my boss doesn't care, why should I care ?
    BUT – Obama isn't going to change – he has proven time after time, you can continue to make mistakes in his administration, and get by with it. Pitiful I say, Just pitiful.

    October 20, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  21. Mike from Illinois

    I thought Obama had hired all the smart people into his Administration. Or maybe it was just the "loyal" people. Dang, there's a difference?

    October 20, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  22. Adventure49

    I'm not sure I would want to take on a programming project where about one third of the developers want the project to fail.

    October 20, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  23. Kris

    Yawnnnn, I'm tired of hearing everyone complaining about Obamacare. I'm planning on going on the site and sign up when we get OUR computer fixed (hahahaha).

    October 20, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  24. willy

    If Washington knew anything about common Americans they would just put the dang Health Care sale on Ebay in a fixed price buy now catagory!

    October 20, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  25. Been There Done That

    This is what cold turkey off of media attention looks like.

    Addiction to attention is a hideous disease, stripping all dignity from the addict.

    The addict will do anything, say anything, and appear before any camera at any time when the craving returns.

    October 20, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
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