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. independent

    Concerned about the heath care website? Simple solution, tell your GOP governors you want the same thing the Blue States have: their own State Exchange. The State exchanges are doing well. All the States opting to create their own Exchange and website are not having a problem. Only those States that have tried to obstruct implementation of the ACA are having a problem....of their own making! Don't like it? Create your own Exchange.

    October 20, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  2. davecu

    Conservatives, please don't waste efforts that can be used better on this bait and switch.
    It will end under its own weight.
    Move on to more irksome arrogance and curtail it instead.
    This is dead in the water. Don't waste capitol on it.

    October 20, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  3. Karl Marxs

    It looks like the Democratic Republic of the USA is a well oiled CORPORATION machine. Keep voting! It makes a difference.

    October 20, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  4. Tom

    These are the same reasons that Social Security and Medicare would not work. Given time most Americans will benefit from the Healthcare. The GOP is hoping for failure so that they can have a campaign issue.

    October 20, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  5. McBob79

    What a shame that this project was given to a foreign company on a no bid basis and it's failed. Smart technologists will tell you that if the problem is architectural then fixing May mean doing it over. Another government disaster courtesy of president Obama and his inept administration.

    October 20, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  6. sedibob

    A little over five years ago, John McCain looked at his options and decided Sarah Palin was the best choice for his running mate. That probably tells us all we need to know about his judgment, doesn't it?

    October 20, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  7. Jay

    "removed $24 billion from the economy"

    What the f does that mean?

    October 20, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  8. Shan Navaratnam

    God bless American hero McCain
    he is the best who is a true Moderate who has compassion for All Americans

    October 20, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  9. Ed

    That has been McCain should shut the Eff up and retire - that would be his greatest contribution to this nation.

    October 20, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  10. cptdondo

    In other words:

    I spent the last three years criticizing, sabotaging, hindering, and in general doing everything I can to make this fail.

    Now I am shocked, SHOCKED! that it's not working perfectly.

    October 20, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  11. kosh

    After looking at the premiums I would pay, I still can"t afford them. I'll just pay the fine at the end of the year out of my income tax and not sign up for any of the coverage. That's the only time I have enough to pay for medical coverage.

    October 20, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  12. cgs

    Yeah, Obama, don't outsource something this important to Canada, you big hypocrite! Remember when you were against outsourcing?

    October 20, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  13. Hutch

    This will be a difficult problem to fix. Let's stand up a new Federal Agency to fix it! The "Department of Website Troubleshooting (DOWT)"...God knows, the private sector could never figure out how to stand up a website–too greedy and incapable. I'm obviously being sarcastic...but come on...didn't we already go through a cycle like this that took us from Carter to Reagan? Wasn't the solution then less government? What the hell did we forget?

    October 20, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  14. greg

    I want socialized medicine.

    October 20, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  15. Hogarth

    While single-payer healthcare would have been a better option, Obamacare does at least do what it sets out to do – it provides access to healthcare insurance to millions of us who previously did not have it. Even the Republicans, as much as they hate poor folks, can't deny that this is a positive step. I'm still waiting for the Republican plan to increase coverage and deal with costs.

    October 20, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  16. allenwoll

    Oh, WoW ! ! ! . The Righty-Health-Care-Wreckers are out in FORCE ! ! . Boys & Girls : You are NOT wanted by SANE folks ! ! ! . Go Away ! ! !

    October 20, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  17. cptdondo

    In other words:

    I spent the last three years criticizing, sabotaging, hindering, and in general doing everything I can to make this fail.

    Now I am shocked, shocked, shocked! that it's not working perfectly.

    October 20, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  18. Chuck

    After Arizona's working class residents find out just how great this law is, John McCain will reinvent history and say he was all for it from the beginning.

    October 20, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  19. Patrish

    I have 3 art websites I created and designed myself; even I know that you test your links, your graphics, everything before you go live. You make sure your servers can handle that kind of traffic you expect to get especially for a site this important. The government has many websites that work just fine, but this one is a disaster. Who in the hell did they hire to do this to run and managed it? Silicon Valley throw them a life preserver. 🙂

    October 20, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  20. patecake

    All of you people who think the "affordable" care act is so wonderful need to take off the blinders and back off the Kool-Aid. Everyone thinks they should get something "free" until they are the ones paying. I have never taken any handouts but yet I have to pay for the freeloaders who refuse to work. Some democracy we have going on in this nation. The most foolhardy president I have ever seen.

    October 20, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  21. James

    It's certainly no more ridiculous than choosing Sarah Palin as vice-president without even meeting her.

    October 20, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  22. Ancient Texan

    McCain is against Obamacare? Then why did he fight Cruz and vote with the Dims?

    October 20, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  23. Merlin

    Similar to an old video game's instructions I once had: "The controls are many and the survivors are few..."

    October 20, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  24. Tony

    The Republican Party should hire the firm that designed the Obamacare website. After the government shutdown/debt ceiling fiasco, Republicans would be thrilled if they could get half a million more members.

    October 20, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  25. woodie

    These people need to take responsibility for the Affordable Care Act instead of bellyaching about it. If I did that in my job I'd get fired.

    October 20, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
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