Biden reassumes presidency after handing over to Kamala Harris during medical procedure

‘The Vice President will work from her office in the West Wing during this time’, White House spokesperson says

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
,Eric Garcia
Friday 19 November 2021 17:17

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President Joe Biden reassumed his presidential duties after going under anaesthesia for a routine colonoscopy, during which time, Vice President Kamala Harris served as acting president of the United States.

“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 anaesthesia,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “The Vice President will work from her office in the West Wing during this time.”

Mr Biden sent letters to Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing “that I am able to discharge the powers and duties of the Office of President of the United States and that I am resuming those powers and duties.”

The president had previously sent letters to Mr Leahy and Ms Pelosi informing them that he had transferred power. As leaders of their respective houses of Congress, Ms Pelosi and Mr Leahy are second and third in line to the presidency, respectively.

Mr Biden arrived at the Walter Reed Medical Centre on Friday for his annual physical, his first while serving as president. Mr Biden, who turns 79 on Saturday, is the oldest person in US history to hold the office of president. His age was used as an argument against his candidacy, both by fellow Democrats in the primary, and by Republicans during the general election as he faced off against former President Donald Trump. Before Mr Biden, Mr Trump was the oldest president in history at the time of his swearing-in.

Mr Trump’s former press secretary Stephanie Grisham alleged in her book I’ll Take Your Questions Now that was released earlier this year that Mr Trump refused to go under anesthesia when he had a colonoscopy in 2019because he did not want to hand power to then-Vice President Mike Pence.

Mr Trump was 70 years old when he took office in January 2017. Fellow Republican President Ronald Reagan was the oldest before Mr Trump. Mr Reagan was 69 when he took office in 1981 and 77 when he left office in 1989. Mr Biden took office at the age of 78.

Ms Psaki added that the White House will release a report on Mr Biden’s health later on Friday. The physical was not initially on the public presidential schedule but was announced hours before Mr Biden left the White House at around 8.30am. He arrived at the hospital in Maryland at 8.51am.

Ms Harris, who is the first woman to serve as vice president, is also the first woman to wield presidential power.

Following concerns about Mr Biden’s age, the administration has said on numerous occasions that he would undergo a physical this year and that the results would be public.

Mr Biden’s examination also came as the House of Representatives passed his proposed social welfare legislation, which would include everything from an expanded child tax credit, home care for elderly people and people with disabilities, provisions to combat climate change, universal child care and preschool and affordable housing investments. Only one Democrat voted against the legislation.

The bill will now head to the Senate where it faces another tough battle. Earlier this week, Mr Biden had Ms Harris by his side when he signed a bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Ms Harris’ time as acting president also comes amid news reports about tension between her and Mr Biden and reports that her staff feel she is being given hot-button issues that are politically difficult. Ms Harris pushed back against reports she is being underused in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on the network’s Good Morning America programme on Thursday.

“We’re getting things done, and we’re doing it together,” she said at the time, adding she is “very, very excited” about the work they were doing.

But Rep Mike Garcia, a Republican from California, was more derisive about the history-making nature.

“I haven’t heard that, any medical conditions he is suffering from I wish him well, I don’t think the country benefits from Kamala Harris being the president of the United States if that’s what you’re asking,” he told The Independent.

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