"It shows that when we put aside the rhetoric and the partisanship, we can solve any issue and meet any challenge," Clinton said. "Its narrow victory also shows the damage, the danger that partisanship can bring to our deliberation."
At the same time, Democratic Majority Leader George J. Mitchell gave up on
plans to keep the Senate in session right through its summer holiday to continue work on stalled health-care reform, Clinton's top domestic priority.
Mitchell said he and others would continue to work on compromise health- care proposals during a two-week recess until Sept. 12. But Mitchell conceded for the first time that he could not get broad health-care reform through Congress.
"It clearly will not be a bill as comprehensive as I would prefer, but there's much that can be done that would represent progress," Mitchell, a Maine Democrat, said Friday. "I hope that we can, working together, produce a bill that will make substantial progress and be passed this year."
White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers told reporters gathered at the resort island that the President "is still hopeful that he can get some kind of broader reform" when Congress returns from its end-of-summer vacation next month.
In his address, Clinton tried to inject a note of optimism about the most important project of his presidency, saying that more progress had been made toward health-care reform "than ever before."
"Members of both parties are trying hard to work out their differences," he said. "And health care will be the first order of business when Congress returns. We have to continue this fight. We have to win it."
In the Republican response to the radio address, Rep. Rod Grams of Minnesota praised the tougher sentences but complained that the crime bill will cost $30 billion, "mostly for programs that will do little if anything to fight crime."
Grams called it "a typical Washington solution: more spending, more programs, bigger government."
White House aides said they expected Clinton's vacation to end "a few days" after the Labor Day holiday.