PHOENIX — Sen. John McCain said the federal government shutdown that was caused primarily over a debate of the Affordable Care Act was a “fool’s errand” for the Republican Party.
“This shutdown did very great damage to our party,” he told News/Talk 92.3 KTAR’s Rob & Karie on Wednesday. “It was a fool’s errand. It harmed the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of citizens of [Arizona].”
Arizona was hard hit by the shutdown. McCain said that more than 600,000 tourists were turned away from the state’s national parks during the shutdown at a huge cost to Arizona.
“We lost $45 million in tourist revenue.”
As the battle raged in Washington, McCain said he grew irritated at certain Republicans, particularly when the shutdown was leaving some in Arizona stranded.
“They had to fly food to our citizens because we can’t get an agreement in Washington? There’s something very wrong with that picture.”
He also said he felt for the thousands of federal employees who were left without a paycheck while the government fought to reopen.
“It’s not acceptable to do that to innocent American citizens because we are in a fight in a sandbox in Washington,” McCain said.
McCain said that, though he respected the efforts of certain Republicans to carry through on their campaign promises to fight Obamacare, they should have realized that the current political atmosphere would make that nearly impossible.
“Many of us said, ‘Elect Mitt Romney and we’ll replace and reform Obamacare’ That didn’t happen, so to think you could do it by a majority in the House, when the Democrats had both the presidency and the majority in the Senate was a fool’s errand.”
During the infighting, it was reported that a GOP leader told President Barack Obama that he couldn’t stand to look at him. McCain said he didn’t see anything like that happen, but that if it did, the Republican was disrespectful.
“If it did happen, then of course that’s disrespectful to the institution of the presidency,” he said. “There’s a certain courtesy that all of us have to extend to the institution.”
As the GOP seeks to shake off the damage done by the shutdown, McCain said the party needs to both convince Americans that such a situation won’t happen again and turn to a positive agenda that citizens can get behind.
“Come up with a contract for America, which we’ve done in the past, positive things ranging from simplifying the tax code to the [Keystone] XL pipeline so America can be more energy independent,” he said.
McCain also said that Americans simply want Congress to work together in the style of former President Ronald Reagan and former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, who hammered out a deal to save Social Security.
“Most Americans want us to act together the way Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill did,” he said. “I believe that you can come up with a compromise without betraying principles.”