Biden gives power to VP during colonoscopy

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President Joe Biden briefly transferred power to Vice-President Kamala Harris as he underwent a colonoscopy, making her the first woman to hold the presidential reins in US history.

Biden, a Democrat, alerted leaders in Congress of the power transfer at 10.10am EST (0210 AEDT) on Friday 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 Biden spoke to Harris and White House chief of staff Ron Klain after the procedure and was "in good spirits".

Biden's power transfer occurred while he was under anesthesia for the colonoscopy. Harris worked from her office in the West Wing of the White House during that time, Psaki said.

Harris is the first woman to serve as vice-president of the United States; no woman has ever been president in the country's nearly 250-year history.

The moment, while historical, does not count as a woman having served as US president, said Debbie Walsh, the director of the Center for American Women and Politics, a research group.

But it does reinforce that "for the first time a woman is the number one person in the line of succession", she said.

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.

In a statement later released by the White House, the president's physician said Biden remained fit for duty and able to execute his responsibilities without any accommodations.

Kevin O'Connor said the colonoscopy found a "benign-appear polyp" that was easily removed.

"Histologic evaluation is anticipated to be completed early next week," the physician said.

"The president has never had colon cancer."

O'Connor also said Biden had exhibited an increased frequency and severity of "throat clearing" due to reflux, which warranted a detailed exam.

That examination found no tumors, ulcers, cancer or other serious conditions.

Biden, who turns 79 on Saturday, is the oldest person to take office as US president, leading to high interest in his health and wellbeing.

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.

with AP

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