WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden was in “good spirits” and resumed his duties Friday after temporarily transferring power to Vice President Kamala Harris while undergoing a routine colonoscopy, according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
The president spoke with Harris and chief of staff Ron Klain at approximately 11:35 a.m., Psaki said in a statement, and resumed his duties at that time. Biden underwent the procedure during a routine physical at Walter Reed Medical Center, where he’ll complete the remainder of his medical exam before returning to the White House Friday afternoon.
Biden’s physical was not listed on his public schedule and was announced just hours before he traveled to the hospital in Bethesda, Md.
As required by the 25th Amendment in the Constitution, Biden sent a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., president pro tempore of the Senate, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., stating that he was unable to discharge his duties while under anesthesia, temporarily transferring power to Harris.
Harris, the nation’s first woman vice president, served as the first woman to assume presidential power. She served in the capacity for less than 90 minutes.
“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,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement earlier on Friday. “The Vice President will work from her office in the West Wing during this time.”
Psaki said the White House will publicly release a written summary of the president’s physical Friday afternoon, which came a day before his 79th birthday.
Former President Donald Trump underwent a colonoscopy as president, but he refused to go under anesthesia, former Trump press secretary Stephanie Grisham wrote in a new book, because he did not want to hand power to then-Vice President Mike Pence. Former Barack Obama was screened for colorectal cancer but did not undergo a colonoscopy as president.
Since Biden became president, the White House has repeatedly said Biden, 79, would receive a physical exam in 2021, and the results would be released to the public.
Ahead of the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, the Biden campaign released a summary of Biden’s medical history in December 2019. At the time, Biden’s doctor said he was a “a healthy, vigorous, 77-year-old male” fit to be president.
The three-page report said Biden’s most significant medical event was brain aneurysms he had in 1988 but that he’s had no recurrences.
During the presidential campaign, Trump regularly questioned Biden’s cognitive ability and fitness to be president – attacks that Republicans have continued during Biden’s presidency.
Although it did not prove an effective campaign strategy, a new poll from Politico/Morning Consult this week found growing disagreement among Americans about Biden’s health. It found 40% of Americans believe Biden is in “good health,” while 50% disagreed. A survey last October found voters believed Biden was in good health by a 19 percentage-point margin.
While at Walter Reed, Biden released a statement lauding passage of his $1.75 trillion social spending plan by the U.S. House of Representatives. Biden also called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to congratulate her on the bill’s passage, Psaki said.
The only other event on Biden’s schedule Friday is the traditional presidential pardoning of the National Thanksgiving Turkey at 3:15 p.m. EST.
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrrison.