WASHINGTON -- There's a new gang in town, thanks to the government shutdown, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) says its mission is to stop people like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) from striking again.
Calling the fiscal showdown a "shameful" and "agonizing odyssey," McCain said Wednesday on the Senate floor that at the very least the episode brought together a bipartisan band of 14 senators who crafted a deal that looked very much like the one that Senate leaders ultimately unveiled.
And while McCain didn't mention Cruz or Lee in his floor speech, it was clear he was talking about the tea party pair whom he has previously blamed for starting Congress down the path to crisis.
"I think it's obvious that we are now seeing the end of this agonizing odyssey that this body has been put through, but far more importantly, the American people have been put through. It's one of the more shameful chapters that I have seen in the years that I have spent here in the Senate," McCain said before declaring there was now a bulwark against future ideological bids for disruption.
"The fact that 14 of us were able to join together, Republican and Democrat," McCain said.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) started the effort, and she was soon joined by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and others.
Once known as a "maverick" for bucking party orthodoxy, McCain is no stranger to Senate gangs. He was among the old "Gang of 14" that brokered a truce over filibustering judicial nominations in the George W. Bush administration, and he was a key partner in the group that crafted an immigration reform plan in the Senate this year.
But in the current case, he's acting less as a maverick and more as a sheriff. And it's less a gang and more a posse.
"This group of 14 people are committed to staying together to address other issues of importance and to tell the American people that there are at least 14 of us -- and there are many others who wanted to join that group and are welcome to join that group -- that we are going to not let this kind of partisanship cripple this body and injure the American people," he said. "This isn't the last crisis that we are going to go through, but I think we have the framework for the kind of bipartisanship that the American people need and want."
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.