President Biden is briefly transferring the power of the presidency to Vice President Kamala Harris as he undergoes a routine physical.

The White House announced that Biden 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 “the Vice President will work from her office in the West Wing during this time.” Psaki added that the White House would release a “written summary” of Biden’s physical later in the afternoon. According to the White House pool report, Biden entered Walter Reed a little before 9 a.m.

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)

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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