Harris Is First Woman to Gain Presidential Power, Briefly

President Biden will be under anesthesia for routine colonoscopy Friday
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 19, 2021 10:08 AM CST
Harris Is First Woman to Gain Presidential Power, Briefly
President Joe Biden arrives Friday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., for a physical exam.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Vice President Kamala Harris is making history again: She'll become the first woman to hold presidential power while President Biden undergoes a routine procedure on Friday. Biden will temporarily transfer power to Harris while he is under anesthesia for a routine colonoscopy, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki. "The Vice President will work from her office in the West Wing during this time," she said, per CNN. Such a transfer of power itself is not unusual. Former President George W. Bush transferred power to then-Vice President Dick Cheney several times while undergoing colonoscopies.

There was an apparent divergence from precedent under former President Trump, however. Stephanie Grisham, who served for a time as Trump's press secretary, wrote in her book, published this year, that Trump underwent a "very common procedure" during which "a patient is put under" during a 2019 visit to Walter Reed Medical Center but did not publicize it because he didn't want to transfer power to his VP Mike Pence, per CNN. She said President George W. Bush had undergone similar procedures, leading readers to conclude she was referring to a colonoscopy. (Former President Obama did not undergo a colonoscopy while in office.)

Biden, 79, will undergo the colonoscopy as part of a routine physical, his first in office. The White House made the announcement only a few hours before Biden departed for Walter Reed Medical Center, arriving at 8:51am EST, per USA Today. Psaki said the White House would release a written summary of the physical in the afternoon. This comes as a poll by Politico and Morning Consult finds 50% of Americans disagree that Biden is in "good health," while 40% agree. Some 46% agree that the president is mentally fit, while 48% disagree, according to the poll. (More Kamala Harris stories.)

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