Biden briefly transfers power to Harris, making her the 1st woman in U.S. history to hold powers of the presidency

·Senior Writer
·3 min read

President Biden briefly transferred the power of the presidency to Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday morning as he underwent a routine physical.

The White House announced that Biden, 78, would be going under anesthesia to receive a colonoscopy at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, making Harris the first woman to hold powers of the presidency.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki released a statement Friday morning with the announcement, stating that Harris would work from her office in the West Wing while the president was sedated. 

Biden entered Walter Reed a little before 9 a.m. local time. 

The White House said Biden formally submitted letters to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., president pro tempore of the Senate, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi informing them of the transfer of power at 10:10 a.m., and resumed his duties at 11:35 a.m.

According to Psaki, the president is "in good spirits" and will remain at Walter Reed as he completes the physical.

Psaki said that the White House would release a “comprehensive written summary” of Biden’s physical later Friday afternoon. 

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday. (Susan Walsh/AP)

After her historic 85-minute stint, Harris traveled from Washington, D.C., to Columbus, Ohio, where she was scheduled to give remarks promoting the bipartisan infrastructure deal that Biden signed into law earlier this week

"As a woman myself I will note that the president, when he selected her to be his running mate, obviously he knew he was making history, making history that was long overdue," Psaki said of Harris, the nation's first female, first Black and first South Asian vice president. "And part of that was selecting someone who could serve by your side as your partner but also step in if there was a reason to and that includes the application of the 25th Amendment that was done this morning.

"She makes history every day," Psaki added. "But certainly today was another chapter in that history. And I think that will be noted for many women [and] young girls across the country."

Former President George W. Bush twice transferred the power to his vice president, Dick Cheney, while undergoing a similar procedure during his two terms in office, each time for a little over two hours. Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, was acting president for about eight hours in 1985 while serving as vice president under President Ronald Reagan, who was undergoing colon cancer surgery.

The ability to temporarily transmit the power via a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate was enacted via the 25th Amendment, ratified in 1967.

In her book released earlier this year, former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham strongly implied that former President Donald Trump’s surprise visit to Walter Reed in 2019 — which set off speculation that he was ill — was simply for a routine colonoscopy (without naming the procedure). Trump, she wrote, didn’t want it known that he would be having the procedure done, partly because he refused to transfer power to Vice President Mike Pence for even a short amount of time, and partly because he didn’t want to be made fun of by late night TV hosts.

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