EDITORIAL: Tea party-driven shutdown was harmful to our country

The first federal government shutdown in 17 years and a near debt default -- both orchestrated by tea party Republicans in the House of Representatives -- have hurt our country.

Standard & Poor's financial experts estimated Wednesday that this shutdown took $24 billion out of the economy. And, until Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell agreed on a deal to reopen the government and avert default, independent credit agencies were just hours from lowering America's credit rating.

The shutdown was pointless. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and other tea party leaders don't know what they don't know. With Democrats in control of the U.S. Senate and President Obama in the White House, the right-wing brigade had no chance of defunding Obamacare -- their stated reason for refusing to fund the government.

But the tea party congressmen charged over the cliff, anyway, causing Rep. Devin Nunes -- a harsh critic of the Affordable Care Act and a conservative Republican -- to call them "lemmings with suicide vests."

If the tea party's aim was to have a legitimate debate about government debt and programs, forcing a government shutdown certainly was the wrong way to go about it.

Multiple national polls indicate that voters have lost trust in the Republican Party because of the shutdown, and political analysts are saying that the Democrats came out on top in this war of wills over the implementation of Obamacare. But we agree with what White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday: "There are no winners here. ... The American people have paid a price for this."

Legislation by Reid and McConnell funds the government only until Jan. 15 and raises the debt ceiling through Feb. 7. Unless there is a dramatic lessening of the rabid partisanship, and a move toward problem-solving in our nation's capital, Americans may pay a big price again.

While President Obama was right to withstand the charge of the tea party no-nothings who attempted to hijack our democracy, it is imperative that he listen to Republican and Democratic concerns about the Affordable Care Act and make it better. The president also must work closely with leaders from both parties in the House and the Senate to reduce the national debt and to reform entitlements.