By ZEKE MILLER
BETHESDA, Md. (AP) – President Joe Biden will briefly transfer power to Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday as he undergoes a “routine colonoscopy” at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the White House said.
Biden drove early Friday to the Washington Suburbs Medical Center for his first routine physical exam as president. Press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would be under anesthesia during the procedure and would transfer power to Harris.
“As was the case when President George W. Bush had the same procedure in 2002 and 2007, and following the process provided for in the Constitution, President Biden will transfer power to the Vice President during the short period he is under anesthesia.” ” she said. “The vice president will be working from his office in the West Wing during this time.”
Biden, 78, had his final full exam in December 2019, when doctors found the former vice president to be “healthy, energetic” and “fit to successfully perform the presidency duties,” according to a medical report at the time. Biden is the oldest person to serve as president, and interest in his health has been high since he declared his candidacy for the White House in 2019.
Dr. Kevin O’Connor, who has been Biden’s primary care physician since 2009, wrote in a three-page note that the then presidential candidate was generally in good shape.
In that report, O’Connor said Biden has had episodes of atrial fibrillation since 2003, a type of irregular heartbeat that is potentially serious but can be treated. At the time, O’Connor cited a list of tests that showed Biden’s heart was functioning normally and his only necessary care was a blood thinner to prevent the most worrying risk, blood clots or stroke.
The bite had a brush with death in 1988, and required surgery to repair two brain aneurysms, weak dents in the arteries, one of which was leaking. The bite has never had a recurrence, his doctor said, referring to a test in 2014 that examined his arteries.
Under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, Biden will sign a letter to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the President of the House of Representatives, stating that he is unable to perform his duties while under anesthesia, which makes Harris to the presidency and will send them another letter after the end of the procedure to resume his duties.
Harris, the first woman, colored, and person of South Asian descent to be vice president, will write history in the short time she is serving as acting president. She is scheduled to travel to Ohio later Friday when Biden resumes his duties.
On Friday afternoon, Biden is scheduled to attend the annual pardon of the national Thanksgiving turkey.
When Biden took office, he brought O’Connor back to the White House to continue serving as his physician, and O’Connor was expected to lead a team of experts in conducting Biden’s physical examination on Friday.
When the COVID-19 pandemic surfaced in early 2020, Biden’s team took intense steps to keep the then candidate and now president healthy as the virus raged and took a disproportionate toll among older populations. Biden received his first dose of COVID-19 vaccines in December 2020 and his second dose just two weeks before accession. He received a booster dose, which regulators say provides more lasting protection, in late September.
The White House said Biden would approve the release of a medical report, as is customary for presidents and presidential candidates. Former President Donald Trump, 75, was sharply criticized for releasing only superficial details about his health while running and serving in the White House, including hiding the seriousness of his COVID-19 illness a month before the 2020 presidential election.