At this point, Vice President Kamala Harris is used to making history. She is the first Black and South Asian vice president. She’s also the first female vice president. Now, on Nov. 19, Kamala, 57, will add another accomplishment to her resume when she becomes the first female American with presidential power. President Joe Biden will temporarily transfer power to Vice President Harris before going anesthesia for a routine colonoscopy, White House press secretary Jenn Psaki told reporters on Friday, according to CNN.
President Biden, who turns 79 on Saturday (Nov. 20), arrived at Walter Reed Medical Center to undergo his first routine annual physical since taking on the role of the president after defeating Donald Trump in the 2020 election. While Biden is under anesthesia, Kamala will work from her office in the West Wing. While this is a historic first, the actual transfer of power when the president undergoes a medical procedure is routine. Former vice president Dick Cheney did so on multiple occasions when George W. Bush underwent multiple colonoscopies during their two terms in office.
As to how this is legal, CNN notes that Section 3 of the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution creates a way for the president to transfer their power. They can send a letter to the speaker of the House of Representatives – in this case, Nancy Pelosi — and the president pro tempore of the Senate (the retiring Senator Patrick Leahy) — declaring 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.”
Kamala is the first woman to officially wield the power of the president. After news of Biden’s procedure broke, many online mentioned how former first lady Edith Wilson unofficially became “acting president” after her husband, President Woodrow Wilson, suffered a stroke. Her “stewardship” lasted 17 months, according to Biography, but she claimed that she “never made a single decision regarding the disposition of public affairs. The only decision that was mine was what was important and what was not, and the very important decision of when to present matters to my husband.”
Donald Trump’s former press secretary Stephanie Grisham heavily implied in her book, I’ll Take Your Questions Now, that he underwent a colonoscopy in secret to avoid transferring power to then-vice president Mike Pence, according to CNN. She claimed Trump’s alleged hospital visit was for a “very common procedure,” during which “a patient is put under,” and said that President Bush had a very similar procedure. She claimed that Trump didn’t want Pence to be in power while he was sedated, and he didn’t want to be “the butt of a joke” on late-night television, which is why he kept his alleged colonoscopy under wraps.
Vice President Harris had her own health scare during a September visit on The View. Co-hosts s Sunny Hostin and Ana Navarro tested positive for COVID-19 in the middle of the episode. Kamala was the scheduled guest for the broadcast. She was first set to do the interview in the studio but instead took questions from Joy Behar and Sara Haines remotely on a video call backstage.