Harris Briefly Assumes Presidential Powers

President Joe Biden briefly transfered power to Vice President Kamala Harris Friday while he was under anesthesia for a colonoscopy, marking the first time a woman officially served as acting commander in chief.

Harris was given the title “acting president” for an hour and 25 minutes under Section 3 of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified in 1967. The clause has only been formally invoked twice before, when then-President George W. Bush had colonoscopies. 

But another woman once took on the role of an acting president: Woodrow Wilson’s wife, Edith, functionally ran the executive branch after her husband suffered a stroke in 1919, but power was never formally transferred to her.

Biden underwent the procedure Friday morning, a day before his 79th birthday. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted that the president spoke with Harris at 11:35 a.m. and resumed his powers at that time.

During the brief time Harris held presidential power, Harris worked in her West Wing office where she watched the House pass the Build Back Better bill, an aide said. The measure is a key element of Biden’s economic agenda.

Biden is the oldest person ever elected to the office at the age of 77 in 2020, leading to even more scrutiny of his health. His last medical assessment, released by his presidential campaign in December 2019, described him as “a healthy, vigorous, 77-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency, to include those as Chief Executive, Head of State and Commander in Chief.”

Psaki told reporters that the White House would release a comprehensive written summary of Biden’s physical exam — conducted at Walter Reed National Medical Center near Washington.

They’re going to release all the detail,” Biden told reporters after returning to the White House. “I feel great. Nothing’s changed.”


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