President Joe Biden temporarily handed over power to Vice President Kamala Harris as he undergoes a colonoscopy at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. After around 11 a.m. ET, the White House said in an update that power was handed back from Harris to Biden following the procedure.
“This morning, the President will travel to Walter Reed Medical Center for a routine physical. While he is there, the President will undergo a routine colonoscopy,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on Friday.
Psaki noted that “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.”
Harris will now work from her office inside the White House’s West Wing, Psaki confirmed. After Biden’s physical and colonoscopy, the White House will provide an update on Friday afternoon.
The transfer of power requires the president to sign a letter saying that he agrees to the move. The Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), is next in line in succession should anything happen to the vice president.
Since Biden’s election in January, he’s been dogged by questions about his health due to his relatively advanced age. White House officials, including Biden, have repeatedly downplayed those concerns, although recent polls have suggested Americans are increasingly worried about his health and mental fitness. A Politico-Morning Consult survey released this week showed that 46 percent believe that he is “mentally fit” to perform his duties as commander-in-chief.
In December 2019, a detailed medical report from his doctor revealed that Biden is a “healthy, vigorous, 77-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency.” That report, released in 2020, said that the last major medical event was in 1988 when Biden suffered several brain aneurysms.
After Biden became president, the White House has frequently said that the president, 79, would receive a physical exam sometime in 2021, and that those results would be publicly released.
This transfer of power has only occurred three times in recent decades. It occurred when former President Ronald Reagan underwent cancer surgery in 1985, handing over the reins to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush.
Former President George W. Bush handed power over to former Vice President Dick Cheney as he underwent two colonoscopies in 2002 and 2007, respectively.
Last October, when former President Donald Trump was hospitalized at Walter Reed for COVID-19, Trump administration officials said there would be no transfer of power to then-Vice President Mike Pence. Before Trump recovered several days later, he notably appeared outside the hospital in a motorcade and waved at supporters.
The White House didn’t elaborate on how long Biden would remain in Walter Reed. The Epoch Times has contacted the administration for additional comment.