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. mrkhrrs

    Once again, republicans are having to clean up Democrats messes.

    October 20, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  2. John

    Why do we keep hearing from this guy, McCain?? Is he the only GOP politician who can speak? You want a fiasco, look at how thousands of senior citizens got swindled by Charles Keating, a banker who McCain and four other high-ranking politicians helped set up in business. That was a fiasco.

    October 20, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  3. kyzaadrao

    This does seem to be more nitpicking than substance. Yes, you'd expect better testing before the initial rollout on a government website, although we're talking increasingly past tense. Maybe we can not turn a website into another Benghazi? The political blame game is getting a bit too obvious on this one.

    October 20, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  4. j

    Finally! EVERY American will pay health insurance. I didn't like that large amount of people didn't pay nothing, and I had to pay health care for them. I believe that if everyone will pay something, this new system should work. It's logic.
    I don't like McCain's pessimistic opinions. Republicans say this plan won't work but do nothing to make it work.They just make people worried. On the other hand, Obama should make up his own health insurance, not to support private insurance companies.That's not right. How he can force people to buy something from private sector? And yes, this healthcare.com is disaster. Do we live in America or a developing country?

    October 20, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  5. zak

    obamacare is the righteous free medical help center for all the middle class and it's a good step towards the betterment.

    October 20, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  6. Joey

    McCain your website is silly! So is the website of the VA. And most government websites are screwy.

    October 20, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  7. Steve

    Every website on the internet will crash with that volume. Once everyone is signed up the volume won't be there anymore.

    October 20, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  8. Nagu Hu Phart

    To me, the initial part of the fiasco is the assumption that everyone this program was intended to help, has access to, and the wherewithal to operate, a computer.

    October 20, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  9. Jon S.

    McCain is a hoot – if this was the GOP rolling out a program, these would be "growing pains due to overwhelming public interest. Since it isn't, he's siding with the Tea Party idiots. To paraphrase, McCain working with idiots makes him an idiot. I'm just glad this guy never made it to the WH.

    October 20, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  10. Paul Williamson

    California's website works perfectly, and my daughter and son-in-law saved $500/month (reduced from $100/month to $600/month for family of four) and their copays are a lot lower, with no deductible (platinum Plan). This is a winner as far as we are concerned.

    I am the website developer for my business, and it took me 4 years to make it "perfect". Internet Explorer has been working on their browser for over 15 years and their are still flaws (Chrome and Firefox are even worse with many serious problems); large scale websites with heavy traffic are difficult to build and to have a full-scale test before they go live. McCain is completely ignorant of this technology -please retire, John, you are embarrassing yourself.

    October 20, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  11. curtegg

    They have to fix the following problems:
    1) Allow people to browse the policies "BEFORE" they fill out their personal information. The present system of having the person input their information prior to policy choice is unforgivable.
    2) If you look at the website why is it sending about 10x amount data per viewer than any normal website? Obviously the government hired contractors that do not know what they are doing.
    3)Why does the website bill you if you browse policies and do not choose one ($95) on the first go around?

    Another big problem if they do not get this website working by the end of the year, is how are they going to deal timing-wise with the fact people couldn't sign on and will have to be taxed $95 for this year because they don't have health insurance because the website didn't work. I would love an explanation for this. This year tax forms have that check box requiring you to state you have health insurance? Does this mean people will have to lie?

    What a mess!

    October 20, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  12. chummyo

    McCain your website is silly! So is the website of the VA. And most government websites are screwy.

    October 20, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  13. Jer

    We can't 'fly in' experts from Silicon Valley because these jobs have already been contracted (bidding very low, getting paid very little) with companies that obviously are having an impossible time keeping up. The companies servicing this service have to stay on this job regardless of what any politicians/citizens would like to see.

    October 20, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  14. sbp

    Verizon's web site is horrible. So is trying to decipher their bill online. Am I going to complain that Verizon sucks because of it? Am I going to give up my cell phone service because of it?

    But for the people who are against the IDEA of the ACA, any glitch is an excuse to say "throw the baby out with the bathwater." It's juvenile.

    October 20, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  15. hih

    They should of had teenage hackers build the web site, they could of paid them scholarships and Red Bull.

    October 20, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  16. enzo

    It should be pretty funny when tax time rolls around and all the useful imbeciles are sitting there with their HIGH bills and NO ONE to help them with it because they CHASED the GOP away for trying to stop the madness and come up with a more sensible plan.

    October 20, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  17. Bob

    Further proof that the private sector is better than government at just about everything.
    And in case anyone was wondering, I identify as a republican and I think John McCain is an idiot. He contradicts himself at every turn.

    October 20, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  18. kevin

    this is what happens when you outsource all of our IT jobs to India and china, we need to stop allowing them to come over here and take our jobs away. we don't have an American programmer shortage as bill gates would have you believe, we have a shortage of companies willing to hire American programmers and pay them properly so they outsource....

    October 20, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  19. NN

    This is no different from any other mismanaged government operation, a total mess. McCain needs to look at DoD and all of that enormous mess before he starts pointing fingers at other departments.

    October 20, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  20. Bob

    Further proof that the private sector is better than government at just about everything.
    And in case anyone was wondering, I identify as a republican and I think John McCain is an id!ot. He contradicts himself at every turn.

    October 20, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  21. American

    Dear God, PLEASE somebody tell Ted Cruz to STOP saying he's speaking on my behalf – I AM an American, and the snake oil salesman – oh wait – the OIL salesman – most assuredly does not speak for me!!! UGH!

    October 20, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  22. Zach

    So just to be clear: healthcare.gov is the exchange portal that people in Republican states have to use because their state government refused to set up their own exchanges right? I know the Colorado exchange had some glitches in the first few days (what website under heavy load doesn't?) but it seems to be working smoothly now. If that's true, then it wouldn't be unfair to say the reason the roll-out has been rocky is because of Republican opposition to the law. If they'd taken the time to set up their own exchanges, the loading would be lighter and the system would probably be less glitchy. But then they wouldn't have the opportunity to make the President look bad I guess.

    October 20, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  23. atfeumea

    >>McCain your website is silly! So is the website of the VA. And most government websites are screwy.

    October 20, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  24. xx4zu1

    All you need is 1-2 Tea Baggers involved in writing the code for the site and they could wreak all kinds of havoc. It wouldn't surprise me if they found out this was the case. Sabotage seems to be their MO when they can't get their way.

    October 20, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  25. TheAnswer

    Not only is the Obamacare site a disaster, I now find any numbers coming from the Obama administration suspect. I think they need to prove their work when they release figures. If their data analysts are as incompetent as their programmers, they could basically be making things up to cover it up.

    October 20, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
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