From NBC's Mark Murray
In the conveniently timed intermission during the Sotomayor hearings, President Obama announced Regina Benjamin to be his pick for surgeon general.
But the president also used the announcement as a kind pep talk on health-care reform, as congressional watchers and the press have begun to doubt whether Congress can meet his goal to pass reform bills before it goes on its August recess.
"We are going to get this done," Obama said. "Inaction is not a option."
He added, "Don't bet against us. We are going to make this happen."
And mentioning a sports/exercise metaphor he's used before, Obama said that Washington's muscles for enacting change have atrophied. So: "We are whipping folks back into shape."
Earlier today, we noted that the day's two main storylines -- Sotomayor and CIA/Cheney -- would make it difficult for Obama to get his message out on the economy and health care. Well, he used a surgeon general announcement to try to break through.
*** UPDATE *** According to NBC's Athena Jones, Obama also said his campaign pledge that Americans making $250,000 a year or less WOULD NOT pay more in taxes was a promise that would be kept as reform moved forward. "During the campaign, I promised health-care reform that would control costs, expand coverage, and ensure choice. And I promised that Americans making $250,000 a year or less would not pay more in taxes. These are promises that we're keeping as reform moves forward."