Brief transfer of power made vice-president the first woman in charge of White House
US President Joe Biden briefly transferred power to Vice President Kamala Harris today as he underwent a colonoscopy, making her the first woman to hold the presidential reins in US history.
Mr Biden alerted leaders in Congress of the power transfer at 10.10am local time and took back control at 11.35am, the White House said.
The president was undergoing a routine physical at the Walter Reed military hospital outside Washington.
White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said Mr Biden spoke to Ms Harris and White House chief of staff Ron Klain after the procedure and was "in good spirits".
Mr Biden's power transfer occurred while he was under anesthesia for the colonoscopy.
Ms Harris worked from her office in the West Wing of the White House during that time.
She is the first woman to serve as vice president of the US and no woman has ever been president in the country's nearly 250-year history.
The US Constitution's 25th Amendment lays out a process for the president to transfer power when he is unable to discharge his duties.
Presidential power has been transferred to the vice president before, when President George W Bush had colonoscopies in 2002 and 2007.
Mr Biden, who turns 79 on Saturday, is the oldest person to take office as US president, leading to high interest in his health and well-being.
Although speculation has persisted about whether he will run for re-election in 2024, he has said he expects to seek a second four-year term.
He has pledged to be more transparent about his health than predecessor Donald Trump. Mr Trump visited Walter Reed in 2019 for an undisclosed reason that a former press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, later revealed was for a colonoscopy.
Mr Trump once had his doctor brief the press about the president's health after questions were raised about his mental acuity.
Ms Psaki said the White House would release a comprehensive written summary of Mr Biden's physical later on Friday.
At his last full exam in December 2019, doctors found him to to be “healthy, vigorous” and “fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency”.
Dr. Kevin O’Connor, who has been Mr Biden’s primary care physician since 2009, wrote in a three-page note that the then-presidential candidate was in overall good shape.
In that report, O’Connor said that since 2003, Mr Biden has had episodes of atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat that’s potentially serious but treatable. At the 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, 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. He has never had a recurrence, his doctor said, citing a test in 2014 that examined his arteries.
Later today, Mr Biden is scheduled to take part in the annual pardoning of the national Thanksgiving turkey.