USA / Kamala Harris held US Presidency for 85 minutes: White House

Vikrant Shekhawat : Nov 20, 2021, 11:19 AM
Washington: Vice-President Kamala Harris on Friday became the first female acting president of the United States after President Joe Biden temporarily transferred his presidential powers to her before going for an annual medical check-up, which involves possible sedation.

Harris is the first woman to hold presidential powers. Though temporary and notional, this will be yet another first for Harris who already has a bagful of them. She was the first woman vice-president, and as the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, she was also the first African American vice-president, first Asian American vice-president, and the first Indian American to hold the country’s second-most powerful position.

The White House press office has confirmed that President Joe Biden is using Section 3 of the 25th Amendment to temporarily transfer power.The 25th Amendment, which was enacted in the aftermath of president John F Kennedy’s assassination, lays down the process by which a president or vice-president can be replaced in the event of death, removal, resignation, or incapacitation.

“Whenever the President transmits to the President pro-tempore of the Senate (the vice-president) and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is 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,” the section says.

Biden will take back his powers through a similar declaration.

US presidents have handed over their powers before, under the 25th Amendment, ahead of a medical procedure such as a colonoscopy, which is conducted for colon cancer screening. Most people feel more comfortable going through the procedure under sedation, which is optional.

Former President Donald Trump was an exception. He refused to be sedated for his colonoscopy in 2019, according to a new book by his then press secretary Stephanie Grisham, which means he did not have to transfer his presidential powers to then vice-president Mike Pence.

Trump’s procedure was conducted at the Walter Reed military hospital and his visit was kept a secret. Grisham says Trump was embarrassed about the procedure. “I think the president was embarrassed by the procedure, even though President George W Bush had the same one done when he was in office and had been very transparent about it,” she wrote.

Bush underwent colonoscopy twice — in 2002 and 2007 — and on both occasions he transferred his powers to then vice--president Dick Cheney for a couple of hours.