According to the White House, President Joe Biden briefly passed power to Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday while he was under anesthetic for a routine colonoscopy for one hour and 25 minutes.
When she temporarily stepped into the acting post, the nation’s first female, first Black, and first South Asian vice president broke yet another barrier. According to Psaki, Harris worked from her West Wing office while Biden was under anesthesia.
“At 11:35 a.m. this morning, @POTUS spoke with @VP and @WHCOS. @POTUS was in high spirits and resumed his duties at that moment. He’ll stay at Walter Reed until the rest of his normal physical is completed “Psaki sent out a tweet.
.@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.
— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) November 19, 2021
Biden, who will celebrate his 79th birthday on Saturday, arrived at Walter Reed Medical Center on Friday morning for his first normal annual medical since taking office.
While the president is undergoing a medical treatment that necessitates anesthesia, it is customary for the vice president to assume presidential duties. When then-President George W. Bush had routine colonoscopies, then-Vice President Dick Cheney did so several times.
At 10:10 a.m. ET, Biden sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy of Vermont, formally transferring presidential powers to Harris.
The letter reads as follows: “I’m having a normal medical procedure today that will require sedation. In light of the current circumstances, I have decided to temporarily delegate the rights and responsibilities of the office of President of the United States to the Vice President during the procedure and recovery period.”
The President can send a letter to the speaker of the House of Representatives and the president pro tempore of the Senate declaring that they are “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President,” according to Section 3 of the US Constitution.
A separate letter was delivered following the procedure to transfer the powers back to Biden.
“In line with the provisions of section 3 of the United States Constitution, I hereby send to you my written declaration that I am able to exercise the powers and duties of the Office of the President of the United States and that I am resuming those powers and responsibilities,” the letter reads.
Biden’s predecessor had a colonoscopy in a covert visit to Walter Reed in 2019 but kept it hidden to prevent ceding presidential power to then-Vice President Mike Pence, according to former President Donald Trump’s ex-press secretary Stephanie Grisham.
Grisham does not use the phrase colonoscopy in her novel “I’ll Take Your Questions Now,” but it is strongly implied that this is what the trip was for. Trump’s hospital visit, which sparked weeks of worry about his health, she claims was a “quite common operation” in which “a patient is placed under.” She also claims that during Bush’s presidency, he underwent a similar operation. Trump did not want then-Vice President Mike Pence to be in authority while he was drugged, according to Grisham, which is one of the reasons he kept his visit secret. According to Grisham, he also “didn’t want to be the punchline of a joke” on late-night television.
Biden is the oldest first-term president in US history, and his medical history was last updated nearly two years ago in December 2019, when his presidential campaign provided a three-page summary of his medical history.
Biden’s main care physician since 2009, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, described him as “a robust, vibrant, 77-year-old male” at the time.
Biden was being treated for non-valvular atrial fibrillation, or AFib, according to the 2019 report, an abnormal heartbeat for which O’Connor claims Biden had no symptoms. He was on Crestor for cholesterol and triglyceride control, as well as Eliquis to prevent blood clots, Nexium for acid reflux, and Allegra and a nasal spray for seasonal allergies.
According to O’Connor, Biden’s most major medical episode occurred in 1988, when he suffered a brain aneurysm. At the time, he was a member of the Senate. During the surgery, surgeons discovered a second aneurysm that had not bled and repaired it as well.
Biden developed deep vein thrombosis and a pulmonary embolism while in the hospital after the procedure. Doctors treated him with an oral anti-coagulant for several months and placed an “inferior vena cava filter” to prevent future blood clots from reaching the heart and lungs.
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