‘In good spirits’: Biden resumes duties after temporary transfer of power to Harris during colonoscopy – USA TODAY

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 the White House.

Biden underwent the procedure during a routine physical at Walter Reed Medical Center. During the colonoscopy, a single 3 mm benign-appearing polyp was identified and “removed without difficulty,” Biden’s physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, wrote in a summary of the president’s medical exam released by the White House.

The physical, conducted a day before the president’s 79th birthday, found Biden to be in overall good health, according to the summary. O’Connor acknowledged Biden’s persistent coughing and throat-clearing, which has been evident during some of his speeches.  O’Connor said the cough is likely a symptom of gastroesophageal reflex, which may also contribute to occasional sinus congestion.

O’Connor, who said Biden has displayed such symptoms “for as long as I have known him,” said an otolaryngology exam found no polyps or tumors and a gastroenterology exam found no signs of ulcers, cancer or other serious conditions. A lung examination came back normal.

Temporary transfer of power to Harris 

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 85 minutes.

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US Vice President Kamala Harris arrives at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland before tavelling to Columbus, Ohio on November 19, 2021. - Harris held presidential powers for a total of one hour and 25 minutes while President Joe Biden was under anesthetic, the White House said Friday (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 0 ORIG FILE ID: AFP_9RY9XN.jpg

“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.”

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.

Growing disagreement about Biden’s health among Americans

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.

President Joe Biden listens as he meets with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) ORG XMIT: DCSW318

Biden is the oldest person ever elected to the presidency in the U.S. Since he became president, the White House has repeatedly said Biden would receive a physical exam in 2021, and the results would be released to the public. 

The summary released on Friday said Biden is 5 feet 11 2/3 inches and his weight came in at 184 pounds, six pounds heavier than a physical two years ago revealed. O’Connor said Biden does not drink alcohol or use tobacco products and exercises at least five days a week.

“President Biden remains a healthy, vigorous 78-year-old male, who is fit to execute the duties of the presidency,” O’Connor said. 

Ahead of the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, the Biden campaign released a summary of Biden’s medical history in December 2019. At the time, O’Connor 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.

After returning, Biden held only one public event at the White House: the traditional presidential pardoning of the National Thanksgiving Turkey. He was then scheduled to depart for Wilmington, Del. for the weekend.

Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrrison.