President Barack Obama on Monday said there was "no excuse" for the cascade of computer problems that have marred the rollout of key elements in his healthcare law, but declared he was confident the administration would be able to fix the issues.
"There's no sugarcoating it," Obama said. "Nobody is more frustrated than I am."
The president said his administration was doing "everything we can possibly do" to get the federally run websites up and running. And he guaranteed that everyone who wants to get insurance through the new healthcare exchanges will be able to.
Editor's Note : Video Exposes Dangers of Obamacare Law
Obama's event in the White House Rose Garden had the feeling of a healthcare pep rally, with guests applauding as Obama ticked through what the White House sees as benefits of the law. The president was introduced by a woman who had successfully managed to sign up for health insurance through the marketplaces in her home state of Delaware.
The president insisted that his healthcare law is about more than just a website.
"The essence of the law, the health insurance that's available to people, is working just fine," he said.
The White House says more than 19 million people have visited HealthCare.gov since the site went live on Oct. 1. Officials also say a half million people have applied for insurance on the federal- and state-run websites.
Administration officials initially blamed a high volume of interest for the frozen screens that many people encountered when they first logged on to the website. Since then, they have also acknowledged issues with software and some elements of the system's design.
In a memo released Sunday, the administration said it was 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, so we can prioritize and fix them."
The administration's admission of widespread problems came as Republicans blasted Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. 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 more than $200 million in a process that is still not complete. USA Today reported that "the federal healthcare 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."
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 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," the Florida Republican 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."
Editor's Note : Video Exposes Dangers of Obamacare Law
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."
In an ironic twist, the troubles with the healthcare rollout were overshadowed by Republican efforts to delay or defund "Obamacare" in exchange for reopening the government during the 16-day shutdown. The bill that eventually reopened the government included no substantive changes to the health care law.
With the shutdown over, GOP lawmakers were ramping up their criticism of the healthcare law's troubles.
"Obamacare costs too much and it's not working the way they promised," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.
And Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said of Obama's Monday event: "A speech doesn't solve the problem."
Information from Bloomberg News and The Associated Press was used in this story.
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