Republicans blasted Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Sunday for the huge number of glitches crippling the Obamacare rollout. They said she will eventually have to testify before Congress over her agency's design and failed launch of the website, which reportedly cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
The only thing Republicans disagreed on was whether the embattled secretary should simply resign immediately because of what one called a "fiasco."
Several reports have estimated that the website cost over $200 million in a process that is still not complete. USA Today reported that "the federal health care exchange was built using 10-year-old technology that may require constant fixes and updates for the next six months and the eventual overhaul of the entire system."
President Barack Obama himself plans to discuss the challenges Monday at what the White House is billing as a "health care event."
Sebelius has said her schedule won't allow her to testify before a House committee this Thursday because she has to attend a gala in Boston the night before.
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., found that response unacceptable, especially considering that Sebelius found time to talk about the website on "The Daily Show"
earlier this month. That appearance didn't go well, with liberal host Jon Stewart wondering after it was over, "Maybe she's just lying to me."
"Secretary Sebelius had time for Jon Stewart, and we expect her to have time for Congress," Upton said.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told "Fox News Sunday"
that he doesn't normally favor public calls for resignation, but that Sebelius' refusal to talk to Congress undermines her credibility and might well lead to her being forced from her job.
"The transparency or lack thereof is concerning," Rubio said.
Sen. John McCain described the enrollment process as a "fiasco" and vowed to continue fighting the healthcare 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 Sebelius to step down. But he did support the idea of holding congressional hearings over the issue and encouraged more efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.
"Let's find out who is responsible for this fiasco and then take the appropriate action," he told CNN host 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."
Cruz was not so kind to Sebelius.
Also appearing on CNN‘s "State of the Union," the Texas Republican called for Sebelius’ immediate resignation, saying the introduction of Obamacare to millions of Americans was a “disaster.”
“Kathleen Sebelius — some of your colleagues are saying she should resign,” CNN‘s Dana Bash said. “Do you agree with that?”
“Absolutely, she should resign,” Cruz responded. “Why? Because the program she has implemented, Obamacare, is a disaster. It’s not working. It’s hurting people all across this country.”
On Sunday, the Obama administration promised a “tech surge” to fix its online health insurance market, in a blog post that said the website “has not lived up to the expectations of the American people.”
“Our team is bringing in some of the best and brightest from both inside and outside government to scrub in with the team and help improve healthcare.gov,” according to the unsigned post, which went up today on the website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“We’re also putting in place tools and processes to aggressively monitor and identify parts of healthcare.gov where individuals are encountering errors or having difficulty using the site.”
The online exchange, serving 36 states, is at the heart of efforts to expand coverage to the uninsured under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It opened to customers Oct. 1, and immediately ran into crippling technical problems that have kept millions from searching for coverage.
Sebelius cannot "refuse to answer questions about this ... [with comments like] 'I have time to go to a gala in Boston, but I don't have the time to appear before the Congress because I'm so busy trying to make this system work," Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told "Fox News Sunday."
President Barack Obama pushed universal mandatory health insurance in his first campaign, and the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010. People who don't get health insurance through their employers should have been able to begin signing up for health insurance on Oct. 1, but the site constantly crashed and has been shut down for maintenance at least once since then.
The government said Sunday that 476,000 people had set up accounts on the exchanges, but did not say how many had actually bought insurance. They expect 7 million people to sign up during the six-month enrollment period.
Obama himself has finally admitted to problems with the rollout, telling advisers that the administration has to accept responsibility for the glitches, the Associated Press reports.
"Our team is bringing in some of the best and brightest from both inside and outside government to scrub in with the team and help improve healthcare.gov," an unsigned post read Sunday on the HHS website.
While the tea party wing of the Republican Party tried tying defunding Obamacare to government funding, the old guard of the party wants to focus on letting the law take effect to show the public how much damage it will cause.
"To our Democratic friends: You own 'Obamacare' and it's going to be the political gift that keeps on giving," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said a week ago on ABC's "This Week."
Republicans need to win six seats in the 2014 midterms to gain control of the Senate. Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska and Kay Hagan of North Carolina will be facing voters for the first time since they were among the 60 Democrats who voted for the health law in 2009, the AP notes.
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