Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), an emerging leader of the new generation of conservative Republicans in Congress, on Saturday urged conservatives to double down on their principles and said the movement has started winning the debate.

"For the last three weeks, conservatives have been winning, and we’re winning because of you," Cruz said in the keynote address to the Conservative Political Action Conference in suburban Washington.

He proceeded to point to spending cuts contained in the sequester and to Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) 13-hour filibuster again CIA nominee John Brennan, which elicited a clarification letter from the Obama administration about its drones program.

“We’re winning right now," Cruz repeated.

The three-day event featured plenty of debate over the way forward for the GOP, which is coming off a disappointing loss in the 2012 election. By the end, though, most speakers were calling for the party to stick with its principles.

Cruz also took time to respond to Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) criticism of him and Paul for the filibuster, in which McCain called them "wacko birds." McCain on Friday apologized for the remark.

"If standing for liberty and standing for the Constitution means you’re a wacko bird, then count me a proud wacko bird," Cruz said. "I think there are more than a few other wacko birds gathered here today.”

It wasn't the first time that Cruz embraced the "wacko bird" label.