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VP Harris to temporarily hold presidential powers while Biden under anesthetic

Vice President Kamala Harris in a virtual roundtable with women’s leadership groups, Feb. 18, 2021, at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
November 19, 2021

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates as more information becomes available.

Vice President Kamala Harris is set to assume control of the powers of the presidency on Friday as President Joe Biden went under anesthetic for a medical procedure. With the temporary transfer of power, Harris is set to become the first woman to hold the powers associated with the office of the U.S. presidency.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced the temporary transfer of powers in a White House press pool report on Friday morning.

“This morning, the President will travel to Walter Reed Medical Center for a routine physical,” Psaki said. “While he is there, the President will undergo a routine colonoscopy. 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. The Vice President will work from her office in the West Wing during this time.”

On two occasions, then-President Bush transferred his presidential powers to then-Vice President Dick Cheney while going under anesthetic for a medical procedure.

Section 3 of the 25th Amendment states the President of the United States can temporarily transfer the powers of the office by sending the Senate President pro tempore and the Speaker of the House a written declaration that he is unable to carry out the duties of his office. Until the president sends a follow-up written declaration stating he can once again carry out the presidential duties, the vice president will carry out the powers of the office.

On Friday, the White House published copies of the letters Biden sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and to Senate President pro tempore Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), informing them of his procedure and his intent to temporarily transfer power.

Psaki described the colonoscopy as part of a regular physical for Biden. Psaki said the White House will publicly release a written summary of Biden’s physical later this afternoon.

Biden’s visit to Walter Reed Medical Center comes ahead of his 79th birthday on Saturday.

With the temporary transfer of power, Harris will set another first as the first South Asian person to hold the powers of the presidency.