Biden undergoes colonoscopy, briefly transferring power to VP Kamala Harris


U.S. President Joe Biden remains “healthy” and “vigorous” and fit for duty, but is showing some signs of aging, his doctor said Friday after the oldest president in American history underwent his first routine physical in office and — in a history-making moment — briefly transferred power to Vice-President Kamala Harris while he underwent a colonoscopy.

Biden, who turns 79 on Saturday, transferred power to Harris, the first woman, first Black person and first person of South Asian descent to be vice-president, for one hour and 25 minutes while he was under anesthesia at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. 

Press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden resumed his duties after speaking with Harris and White House chief of staff Ron Klain at approximately 11:35 a.m. ET.

Interest in Biden’s health has been high ever since he declared his candidacy for the White House in 2019 and remains intense as speculation about a 2024 re-election bid swirls. The visit to the hospital in the Washington suburbs was for his first routine physical exam as president — and his first since December 2019.

As Biden left the medical centre in the afternoon, he said he was feeling “great.”

“Great physical and a great House of Representatives vote,” he said, referring to the House passage earlier in the day of his roughly $2 trillion US social and environmental agenda.

After arriving back at the White House, he said “Nothing’s changed” with his health, joking, “We’re in great shape, and I’m looking forward to celebrating my 58th birthday.”

U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris, seen Thursday with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the balcony of the Eisenhower Executive Office building at the White House, temporarily assumed the responsibilities of the presidency during Biden’s medical procedure. (Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)

While serving as acting president Harris was working from her office in the West Wing, Psaki said. She later traveled to Ohio once Biden awoke from the procedure.

Biden was keenly aware of the history he was making when he selected Harris to be his running mate, Psaki said, adding that she made “history every day” in the job.

“Today was certainly another chapter in that history I think that will be noted for women, young girls across the country,” she added.

Near-death experience in the ’80s

During Friday’s examination, Biden underwent a battery of blood, physical, gastrointestinal, dental, vision and neurological examinations.

Dr. Kevin O’Connor, who has been Biden’s primary care physician since 2009, wrote in a six-page memo released by the White House that says Biden “remains a healthy, vigorous, 78-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency.”

O’Connor, however, revealed that he investigated Biden for increased instances of “throat clearing” during public remarks and a stiffening of his gait. O’Connor reported that Biden’s coughing was the result of gastrointestinal reflux and that the stiffened gait was the result of a new diagnosis of “mild peripheral neuropathy,” spinal arthritis and compensation for a broken foot sustained a year ago.

From the White House Press Secretary:

Biden had a brush with death in 1988, requiring surgery to repair two brain aneurysms, weak bulges in arteries, one of them leaking. Biden has never had a recurrence, his doctor said, citing a test in 2014 that examined his arteries.

When Biden took office, he brought O’Connor back to the White House to continue serving as his doctor, and O’Connor led a team of experts in conducting Biden’s physical exam Friday.

Once the COVID-19 pandemic emerged 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 the COVID-19 vaccines in December 2020 and his second dose just two weeks before taking office. He received a booster dose, which regulators say provides more enduring protection, in late September.

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