WASHINGTON: A smiling President Joe Biden returned Friday to the White House from an extended medical checkup during which Vice President Kamala Harris briefly assumed the presidency while he was under anesthesia.
“I feel great,” Biden, wearing his trademark aviator sunglasses, said after disembarking from the Marine One helicopter. “We’re in great shape.” The White House said a “comprehensive written summary” of the results from the president’s medical exam would be made public Friday.
While the visit at Walter Reed hospital was described as a routine, once-a-year exam, the requirement for Biden to transfer power while sedated during a colonoscopy made history.However briefly, Harris became the first woman to hold presidential power in the United States. She is already the first female vice president.
Biden temporarily transferred power to Vice President for one hour and 25 minutes, according to the White House. The nation’s first female, first Black and first South Asian vice president broke yet another barrier when she temporarily stepped into the acting role. Harris worked from her office in the West Wing while Biden was under anesthesia, according to Psaki. “@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,” Psaki tweeted.
The White House press office said that official letters to Congress declaring the temporary transfer of power were sent at 10:10 am (1510 GMT). “The president resumed his duties at 11:35 am,” (1635 GMT), the White House said in a statement.
“Today that was another chapter in that history for many women, young girls across the country,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, noting Harris´ trailblazing role.The oldest person to hold the presidency in US history, Biden´s check-up took place on the eve of his 79th birthday.
Although the administration stressed that there was nothing unusual in the hospital visit, Biden´s departure by motorcade from the White House early Friday was announced at the last minute, causing surprise. His public schedule, issued the previous night, listed only the traditional ceremony to “pardon” a turkey ahead of Thanksgiving and departure for a weekend at home in Delaware.
Because Biden was being anesthetized during the colonoscopy, he had to hand over power under the constitution, putting Harris, 57, temporarily in charge of the US armed forces and nuclear weapons arsenal. Harris made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic Party nomination in 2020, before being picked as Biden´s running mate. While holding the temporary presidential reins she continued to “work from her office in the West Wing,” Psaki said.
Psaki noted that a similar temporary transfer of power, “following the process set out in the Constitution,” had been carried out when president George W. Bush underwent the same procedure in 2002 and 2007. Any details on Biden´s health are sure to be closely watched, given speculation on whether he will stand by his stated intention to seek a second term in 2024.
In a letter released by his election campaign in December 2019, Biden´s physician described him as “a healthy, vigorous, 77-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency.”
Biden does not smoke or drink, and prior to his election worked out at least five days per week, according to the letter. He was vaccinated early on against Covid-19, and received a booster shot in September.
The health check comes at a crucial moment in his presidency, with the House of Representatives voting to send Biden´s huge “Build Back Better” social spending agenda to the Senate for approval.
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