Vice President Kamala Harris was in charge of the country for a brief period on Friday morning when President Joe Biden went under anesthesia for a colonoscopy being conducted as part of his annual physical.
Biden took power back at 11:35 a.m. EDT, after speaking with Harris and White House chief of staff Ron Klain. He reliquished power at 10:10 a.m. EDT, leaving Harris in charge of the country for one hour and 25 minutes.
‘.@POTUS spoke with @VP and @WHCOS at approximately 11:35am this morning. @POTUS was in good spirits and at that time resumed his duties. He will remain at Walter Reed as he completes the rest of his routine physical,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki wrote on Twitter.
The White House said Harris worked out of her office in the West Wing, meaning she was not in the Oval Office as she assumes presidential power. Harris takes over amid reports she is being sidelined by the administration, which the White House has vigorously denied.
Harris, the first female and first black vice presidential, made history with her time holding presidential power.
President Biden headed to Walter Reed for his physical as the Democrats passed his $1.75 trillion Build Back Better spending bill and days after a poll said American voters were split on whether he is mentally fit and healthy enough to handle the presidency.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends regular screenings for colon cancer starting at age 45. A colonoscopy can last about an hour. George W. Bush was the last president to undergo a colonoscopy with anesthesia while in office. And he transferred power to then Vice President Cheney in both 2002 and 2007 when he under went the procedure.
Biden’s motorcade arrived at Walter Reed Military Center at 8:51 a.m. ET on Friday morning, where he was to undergo his first physical as president. It comes the day before his 79th birthday. Biden, wearing a face mask, waved as he went inside.
Psaki announced early Friday morning that Biden would be examined, adding later he ‘will undergo a routine colonoscopy.’
‘As was the case when President George W. Bush had the same procedure in 2002 and 2007, and following the process set out in the Constitution, President Biden will transfer power to the Vice President for the brief period of time when he is under anesthesia. The Vice President will work from her office in the West Wing during this time,’ Psaki said.
The White House will publicly release a written summary of the Biden’s physical later Friday afternoon, she noted.
As required by section three of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, Biden signed a letter to the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives saying he is unable to discharge his duties while under anesthesia and designate Harris. Biden will send them another letter upon the conclusion of the procedure, noting he has resumed his duties of office.
The White House released copies of the letters to Senator Patrick Leahy and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, where the president relinquished power and then took it back.
Biden wrote to the leaders he was undergoing a ‘routine medical procedure requiring sedation. In view of present circumstances, I have determined to transfer temporarily the power and duties of the office of President of the United States to the Vice President during the brief period of the procedure and recovery.’
He later sent a second letter resuming presidential powers.
‘In accordande with the provisions of section 3 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, I hearby transmit to you my written delcaration that I am able to discharge the powers and duties of the Office of the President of the United States and that I am resuming those powers and duties,’ Biden wrote.
Biden’s procedure comes as the House was voting to approve his $1.75 trillion Build Back Better package of social safety net programs.
President Biden waves as he arrives at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for his annual physical
The White House announced early Friday morning President Biden would go to the military hospital for his annual physical
President Joe Biden is getting his first routine annual physical as president, just a day shy of his 79th birthday
Biden leaving the White House Friday morning for Walter Reed Medical Center
A member of security team cleans President Biden’s limousine before the president departs the White House for Walter Reed Medical Center
Vice President Kamala Harris will be in charge Friday when President Joe Biden goes under anesthesia for a colonoscopy being conducted as part of his annual physical
Walter Reed Medical Center, a military center in Bethesda, Md., is the traditional hospital of presidents for their medical needs.
The transfer of power and the 25th Amendment: Process Presidents use to briefly hand over the reins
As required by section three of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, Biden will sign a letter to the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives saying he is unable to discharge his duties while under anesthesia and designate Harris.
Biden will send them another letter upon the conclusion of the procedure, noting he has resumed his duties of office.
Presidents have temporarily relinquished power but not all invoked the 25th Amendment.
Previous transfers of power have generally been brief and happened when the president was undergoing a medical procedure.
In 2002, President George W. Bush became the first to use the amendment’s Section 3 to temporarily transfer power to Vice President Dick Cheney while Bush was anesthetized for a colonoscopy. Bush temporarily transferred power in 2007 to undergo another colonoscopy.
The 25th Amendment was never invoked after President Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981. Reagan did temporarily transfer power to Vice President George H. W. Bush while undergoing surgery to remove a polyp from his colon in 1985, but he said at the time he wasn’t formally invoking the 25th Amendment.
Donald Trump was treated there when he had COVID. And Trump made a mysterious visit to Walter Reed in November 2019 that was later revealed to be a colonoscopy. At the time the White House said he got a partial physical.
But former Trump press secretary Stephanie Grisham indicated in her book on the administration Trump was getting a colonoscopy without anesthesia.
The reason for the secrecy, Grisham explained, was that Trump didn’t want to hand over power to Vice President Mike Pence, even for a short amount of time, because it would be ‘showing weakness.’
He also didn’t want to be ‘the butt of the joke,’ she wrote, on late-night TV.
Biden’s visit to Walter Reed on Friday comes amid questions about the health of the country’s oldest president and, as earlier this week, a new poll found that voters were split on whether Biden is mentally fit enough and healthy enough to handle the presidency.
Only 40 per cent of voters surveyed in a new Politico/Morning Consult poll agreed with the statement that Biden ‘is in good health,’ while 50 per cent disagreed.
Biden got a tougher rating when it came to his mental health.
Asked whether Biden is ‘mentally fit’, voters were close to an even split: 46 per cent says he is and 48 per cent disagree.
And asked whether Biden is ‘stable,’ voters are split again with 44 per cent saying he is and 50 per cent disagreeing.
Voters’ opinions on the president’s health appear to be shifting with more of them concerned about his fitness.
In October 2020, when the poll last surveyed the question, voters believed Biden was in good health by a 19-point margin compared to this recent 10 point one. Addtionally, in that October 2020 survey, voters believed Biden was mentally fit by a 21-point margin.
Biden turns 79 on Saturday and the last extensive update on his health came in December 2019 – during the presidential campaign – where his doctor described him as ‘a healthy, vigorous, 77-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency.’ ‘
President Donald Trump, who was 70 when he was elected president, mocked Biden’s stamina on the campaign trail in last year’s election, dubbing him with the moniker ‘Sleepy Joe.’
Trump’s first physical was released in January 2018, a year after he was sworn-in.
An exuberant Dr. Ronny Jackson, now a Republican House member in Congress, praised Trump for having ‘incredible genes,’ which allowed the then 71-year-old president to consume Diet Coke, McDonald’s, ice cream and exercise very little and still stay in ‘very, very good health.’
‘I have absolutely no concerns about his cognitive ability,’ Jackson also assured reporters, after the book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House had raised questions about Trump’s mental state.
Donald Trump made a mysterious visit to Walter Reed in November 2019 that was later revealed to be a colonoscopy. Former Trump press secretary Stephanie Grisham indicated in her book on the administration Trump was getting a colonoscopy without anesthesia. The reason for the secrecy, Grisham explained, was that Trump didn’t want to hand over power to Vice President Mike Pence , even for a short amount of time, because it would be ‘showing weakness’
Dr. Ronny Jackson, now a Republican House member in Congress, praised Donald Trump’s health after Trump’s first physical as president, which happened in January 2018, a year after Trump was sworn in
Joe and Jill Biden stay physically active – above they ride their bikes through Cape Henlopen State Park in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, in September 2019
In March, Biden stumbled three times while climbing the stairs to board Air Force One, which his staff blamed on the windy day
WHAT IS A COLONOSCOPY AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO GET ONE EVERY 10 YEARS?
What is a coloscopy?
A colonoscopy is an exam that detects abnormalities and changes in the large intestine and in the abdomen.
How is it performed?
Patients are either sedated or, in rare cases, given general anesthesia, to dull the amount of pain they feel.
A long, flexible tube is inserted into the rectum. A tiny video camera is attached to the tip so the doctor can view the inside of the colon.
If necessary, the doctor can remove polyps or other types of abnormal tissue, as well as take tissue samples.
A colonoscopy will generally take about 30 to 60 minutes.
How do I prepare the day before a colonoscopy?
Doctors recommend that patients eat low-fiber foods that are easy to digest starting three to four days before the colonoscopy.
The day before the procedure, patients are not allowed to eat anything solid and can only consume clear liquids.
The night before the colonoscopy, patients have to take laxatives to make sure the digestive tract is clear.
When should I get a colonoscopy?
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all adults between ages 45 and 75 get screened for colon cancer.
If the colonoscopy doesn’t find any signs of cancer, it should be done every 10 years.
Why is it important to get a coloscopy?
Aside from skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the U.S.
An estimated 104,270 new cases of colon cancer and 45,230 new cases of rectal cancer are expected to be diagnosed in 2021.
It is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in men and in women, separately, and the second leading cause of cancer deaths when men and women are combined with 52,980 deaths expected in 2021.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, American Cancer Society
While Trump regularly ‘speaks his mind,’ Jackson argued, he ‘found no reason whatsoever to think that the president has any issues whatsoever with his thought process.’
Biden hasn’t helped questions about his health with his tendency toward gaffes – an afflication that has plagued him on and off throughout his more than 40 years in politics.
In his first few months in office, he would refer to his vice president as ‘President Kamala Harris’ and White House staff recently had to clarify comments he made on the situation in Taiwan.
In March, Biden stumbled three times while climbing the stairs to board Air Force One, which his staff blamed on the windy day.
The president does stay physically active – he and First Lady Jill Biden ride bikes when they are at their vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and he plays golf at the local country club when he’s home in Wilmington.
Earlier this week, Harris hit back at claims she is being misused as vice president, saying she doesn’t feel like she’s being under utilized by President Biden and his team.
‘No. I don’t,’ she told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in an interview that aired on Good Morning America Thursday morning. ‘I am very, very excited about the work that we have accomplished but I am also absolutely, absolutely clear-eyed that there is a lot more to do and we’re going to get it done.’
She rattled off a list of her accomplishments, including the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, her recent trip to France, her work with members of Congress and her presiding over the Senate as she defended her job as vice president.
Harris’ interview came amid reports of chaos in the vice president’s office and frustration among West Wing staff with her and her team, which the White House has vigorously pushed back on, denying Harris is being sidelined as her poll numbers sink. ‘
She also stressed her strong relationship with Biden and dismissed her low approval ratings which plummeted to 28% in a USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll of registered voters earlier this month.
‘Polls, they go up, they go down,’ Harris said. ‘But I think what is most important is that we remain consistent with what we need to do to deal with the issues that we’re presented with at this moment.’
She also said she and Biden have not spoken about the 2024 presidential race.
‘Absolutely not,’ she said when Stephanopoulos asked if Biden told her he would seek a second term.
Kamala Harris hit back at claims she is being under used as vice president in an interview with ABC News
In the interview with ABC News, Vice President Harris stressed her strong relationship with President Joe Biden – the two are seen above Monday at the signing of the bipartisan infrastructure bill
The White House has gone full throat with their defense of her after a CNN report claimed Biden was distancing himself from Harris because of her sliding poll numbers while the vice president felt isolated and frustrated with being given some of the most difficult issues for the administration in her portfolio.
And, in a troubling sign for Democrats, Biden’s approval rating dropped to 36 per cent in a new poll out Thursday and most voters said they want to see Republicans take control of Congress.
The new numbers – from a Quinnipiac University Poll – indicate a level of frustration among voters with the party in power as the country prepares for next year’s midterm election.
Harris and Biden put on a show of force at Monday’s signing of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The two walked out onto the South Lawn together and exchanged hugs.
Meanwhile, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain tweeted Harris is an ‘incredible leader’ and White House press secretary Jen Psaki argued Harris receives more criticism because of her status as a woman of color. Harris is the country’s first female and first black vice president.
The president has publicly said he intends to run again. And there has been anonymous chatter among Democrats that, if he does, he should consider replacing Harris. There’s additional speculation that if he doesn’t run again, Harris would not be the strongest contender to replace him. Some have suggested Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg would be a better candidate for the nomination.
Biden, however, did not name either Harris or Buttigieg as the person in charge of implementing his infrastructure plan and watching where the dollars go – a role he noted he played for Barack Obama in 2009 for stimulus money distribution. He named former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
Harris did not answer about the president’s 2024 plans the first time Stephanopoulos asked her, however. He had to press her a second time on the issue.
Harris began her response by listing off what she had done Wednesday – the day the interview was taped – including beginning the day with Biden at the presidential daily briefing and attending meetings.
When Stephanopoulos asked her again, she said definitively it had not been discussed.
Harris also defended her work on the root causes of migration. Republicans have pounded Harris and the administration over the numbers of migrants crossing the Southern border.
‘It won’t be overnight. We can’t just flip a switch and make it better,’ she said.
Senior Biden aides having been trying to pour cold water on the CNN article published Sunday night with background from nearly three dozen sources suggesting that Biden had ‘given up’ on Harris after a poll showed her approval at 28 percent.
Privately, Harris aides complain that she has been set up to fail, and handed a portfolio that is not commensurate with her historic status as the first woman, and first woman of color, to hold the vice president’s office.
‘They’re consistently sending her out there on losing issues in the wrong situations for her skill set,’ said a former high-level Harris aide.
Her aides also complain that on the issues that she has been given control over – such as the border crisis and voting rights – she doesn’t have White House backing to follow through.
In contrast, they say the president has been more vigorous in defending Buttigieg.
At the same time, Biden’s staff are privately disappointed with Harris over self-inflicted controversies, like her ‘awkward’ laughter when asked about visiting the border by NBC’s Lester Holt.
President Biden and Vice President Harris hugged it out at Monday’s infrastructure bill signing
Psaki said on Wednesday evening that Harris is judged with a higher bar being a woman and a woman of color. She slammed the vice president’s Republican critics.
‘I do think it’s been easier and harsher from some on the right-wing who have gone after her because she is the first woman, the first woman of color,’ Psaki told Politico in an interview.
Psaki said that while it may never be acknowledged publicly there is ‘no question’ that the attacks on Harris are in part because she’s a first ‘many times over.’
‘It’s a lot to have on your shoulders,’ Psaki said, adding that while Harris wants to be seen as the ‘talented, experienced expert, substantive policy person, partner to the president’ that she is, instead some of the attacks are ‘beyond’ – and they’re because of her identity.