Biden resumes duties as president after transferring power to VP Harris

US president briefly transferred power when he underwent a "routine colonoscopy", White House said

President Joe Biden resumed duties as US president after briefly transferring power to Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday when he went a “routine colonoscopy” at Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre, the White House said.

Mr Biden drove early on Friday to the medical centre in the Washington suburbs for his first routine physical exam as president.

Mr Biden will remain at Walter Reed as he completes the remainder of his physical, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Mr Biden would be under anaesthesia during the procedure and would transfer power to Ms Harris.

Mr Biden resumed his duties at approximately 11:35 a.m. ET. The first letter, in which Mr Biden transferred power to Ms Harris, was sent at 10:10 a.m.

“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 anaesthesia,” she said.

“The vice president will work from her office in the West Wing during this time.”

Mr Biden had his last full exam in December 2019, when doctors found the former vice president to be “healthy, vigorous” and “fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency”, a doctor’s report said at the time.

Mr Biden, who turns 79 on Saturday, is the oldest person to serve as president, and interest in his health has been high since he declared his candidacy in 2019.

Dr Kevin O’Connor, who has been Mr Biden’s primary care physician since 2009, wrote in a three-page note that he was in overall good shape when he began his run for the presidency.

In that report, Dr O’Connor said that since 2003, Mr Biden has had episodes of atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat that is potentially serious but treatable.

At that time, Dr O’Connor cited a list of tests that showed Mr Biden’s heart was functioning normally and his only needed care was a blood thinner to prevent the most worrisome risk of blood clots or stroke.

Mr Biden had a brush with death in 1988, requiring surgery to repair two brain aneurysms — weak bulges in arteries — one of them leaking. The president has never had a recurrence, his doctor said, citing a test in 2014 that examined his arteries.

Pursuant to the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution, the president will sign a letter to the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives saying he is unable to discharge his duties while under anaesthesia, making Ms Harris the acting president.

He will send them another letter upon the conclusion of the procedure and resume his duties.

Ms Harris, as the first woman and first person of South Asian descent to be vice president, will be making history during the short time she serves as acting president. She is scheduled to travel to Ohio later on Friday once Mr Biden resumes his duties.

On Friday afternoon, Mr Biden is scheduled to take part in the annual pardoning of the national Thanksgiving turkey.

When Mr Biden took office, he brought Dr O’Connor back to the White House to continue serving as his doctor, and Dr O’Connor was expected to lead a team of experts in conducting Mr Biden’s physical exam on Friday.

The White House said Mr Biden would authorise the release of a medical report, as is customary for presidents and presidential candidates.

Former president Donald Trump was sharply criticised for releasing only cursory details on his health while running and serving in the White House, including concealing the seriousness of his Covid-19 illness a month before the 2020 presidential election.

Updated: November 19th 2021, 7:11 PM