McCain: 'Telling the American people that you can defund ObamaCare was a fool's errand and a deception of the American people'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 16, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Republican Senator John McCain joins us.

Well, Senator, is this a deal or a postponement?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Well, I hope it's a deal that we will learn the lesson that we learned back in 1995, the last time we went through this routine.

You know, I was standing there watching Senator Cruz, as you were. He says he is standing with the American people. The American people disapprove of Republicans now by 74 percent, the highest ever since we have been taking any polls. The American people have been hurt to the tune of $40 billion while we went through an exercised that could not succeed.

I am proud of the record of a lot of us for fighting ObamaCare. We spent 25 days in 2009, up until Christmas Eve morning. I campaigned across this country for Mitt Romney and said elect Mitt Romney, we will repeal and replace ObamaCare. You cannot change Obamacare until we have a Republican president and Republican majorities in both houses, and that's a reality.

And to tell American people that you can defund ObamaCare was a fool's errand and a deception of the American people, and I resent that. Because the damage that has been done not only to us as institutions but to the American people is just not acceptable.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, let me ask you something else though about this is that, number one, is the reason we got to this is because, you know, the Congress, which includes you and the president --


VAN SUSTEREN: You took off August. You didn't do it. You know, you knew September 30th is going to roll around.

MCCAIN: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: So the American people have a right to be unhappy with everybody. Now, the --


MCCAIN: With the process, yes.


MCCAIN: Including the president never sat down and negotiated with us.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm not letting anybody off the hook. Then now, we have this new deal where it essentially just postpones it. It puts the funding off until jab. It puts the debt ceiling off until sometime in February. Then you create this committee that is supposed to do long-term budgetary considerations. Well, we went through that beginning August 2011 when we had the super committee.


VAN SUSTEREN: What in the world -- why should the American people not be rolling their eyes at this one?

MCCAIN: They should be rolling their eyes because, from a technical standpoint, it kicks the can down the road. From a reality standpoint, it's hard for me to believe, since we were all damaged -- just Republicans damaged more. Democrats were damaged. The president was damaged -- that they realized this is not the way the American people will find acceptable. So, all I can say is that I am confident -- after '95, we waited all these years before we tried this idiotic experiment again. And I hope it will be another 15 or 20 years, whatever it is, before we do it again.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the Senate -- well, Senate took care of itself today. It didn't put the Vitter Amendment in it. I know that -- I mean, you can excise out the staff, but the Senators made sure they get this government contribution. Why did you all take care of yourself today? You know, that seems rather convenient.

MCCAIN: It's convenient. And, again, it contributes to the cynicism that Americans have. They want us to live like they do. And obviously, that exemption exists. They added money for a dam that I frankly never even heard of. They stuck in some stuff which, of course, they couldn't have gotten through a regular legislative process. And that's disgraceful.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't know how to do this one because it's so sensitive, but Senator Lautenberg died, and his wife, his widow -- they put a death gratuity in for her. And I don't want to take away her loss or would in any way want to hurt her. But he was a -- he had tens and tens like $40 or $50 million. Yet you put in there to take care of her financially. I don't want to take anything away from her. I bet she wasn't even asked. I bet she wouldn't even want it. But you all took care of your own again.

MCCAIN: Well, all I can say is that if I had written it, none of those things would have been in it. We really didn't find out these small, what they call anomalies, until about two hours ago. And that's a terrible way to do business.

But the main thing here, Greta -- those are bad. That's bad. But what's really bad is what we did to so many Americans, disrupting their lives so terribly because we couldn't work together. We're down to 8 percent approval.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the reason that -- I mean, you had Senator Ted Cruz, who I think that many of you think -- you have certainly expressed your views about him. What I don't understand though is that, where was the leadership to sort of -- like in the military, if you have got some troops that are giving you problems, you are responsible as the leaders. Where were the leaders in the Senate if you thought that Senator Ted Cruz was doing this horrible thing to create this problem? Where was that?

MCCAIN: Well, some of us, from the beginning, said this was a tool's errand and it's going to -- I said exactly how it was going to end up. It didn't take a genius to know that. I fought against it. But, look, in the military, those people work for you. I work for the people of Arizona. He works for the people of Texas. He is entitled to his views. I respect those views. I disagree with them strongly, but he has a right as a United States Senator, and he has obviously exercised it.

What we need to do is come up -- we, Republicans, is come up with an agenda for America that is a positive agenda of the things we want done to get this country back on track and get off of this negative shutting down the government.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there any argument you can give me to make the American people feel this budgetary committee is going to be any more successful than Simpson-Bowles or the super committee that they had two years ago so we can at least feel like this is a step forward?

MCCAIN: I can't, but I'm very confident that we won't put the American people through this again because of the damage that it's done to us. One thing politicians crave is approval. What is our disapproval? All-time highs. Higher than it's ever been in the Gallup poll, higher than finance ever been in several polls.

VAN SUSTEREN: Here's an idea. Everyone just go home for Christmas day and come back and work, because January 15th is going to roll around pretty fast.


MCCAIN: Well, I will come on and we will see who was right.


MCCAIN: But, this is not a good time for Congress or the president of the United States, who did not engage the way that he should have -- and they wanted to win a victory, and maybe they won but, in this town, what goes around comes around.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you. You have got to go vote, I know. Thank you, sir.

MCCAIN: Thanks.