By Camille Garcia, 9th grade
Last Friday, November 19, a historic event occurred in the presidential history of the United States. Kamala Harris, the vice president took over as president, bearing full responsibility for Joe Biden’s duties as the person who sits in the highest office of the United States. This charge was not for more than two hours, more specifically, she only lasted for 1 hour and 25 minutes (85 minutes total). President Biden was in a mild medical condition, as he was anesthetized for one of his routine colonoscopies. This includes a small, low-risk operation that took the time that Kamala Harris lasted as president. They decided to do this routine checkup, since the next day (November 20), he would turn 79 years old. Therefore, Harris’ position as acting chief of state was only temporary, since according to Mr. Biden’s doctor, he was in a position to continue with his duties as president and that it was not necessary for him to rest or take time off.
Why is this event so important if Kamala only assumed her role as vice president? As vice president, it is common to assume the positions of the president in the event of their removal, death, or inability to lead, however, this made Kamala Harris the first woman to assume presidential duties, which is quite admirable. Apart from this, she is the first woman in the history of the United States to be named vice president, since if we look at the long list of vice presidents of the United States, she is the only female figure and it is incredible that 48 vice presidents had to pass to achieve this before her. This is a great inspiration, and hopefully, this will not be the last time that a woman assumes these positions as acting President of the United States.
According to the White House press, the official letters of Congress authorizing the transfer of power were delivered at 10:10 in the morning and Joe Biden returned to continue his work at 11:35 am. At the time, Biden was driving to a medical center in the Washington suburbs for his first routine physical examination as president. The White House press claims that there was no problem with the president being the doctor, but they did say that it was something unexpected and that it was announced at the last minute. “She [Kamala Harris] continued to work from her office in the West Wing while temporarily holding the presidency”, according to Psaki, the White House Press Secretary. Psaki also stated that something very similar happened with President George W. Bush in 2002 and 2007. Psaki also stated that a similar temporary transfer of power was carried out “following the process set forth in the Constitution.” Regarding Biden’s health, any information will undoubtedly be heavily monitored, given rumors over whether he will pursue a second term in 2024 due to his old age. Considering that before his election a year ago, Biden promised to be completely transparent with voters about his health.
The problem with Biden’s health
This issue is not related much to the fact that Kamala was president for almost an hour and a half, however, it is something that worried society after the news came out. There is really no problem with Biden getting a medical checkup, nevertheless, that does not indicate any health problems. Due to medical precedents in the past, there is a lot of speculation about this. After this event, many are concerned about Biden’s health, since being 79 years old there are always health risks. However, Biden’s physician described him as “a healthy, vibrant, 77-year-old male, who is fit to successfully fulfill the duties of the presidency” in a letter issued by his election campaign in December 2019. According to the letter, Biden does not smoke or drink, and previous to his election, he worked out at least five days per week. He was immunized against Covid-19 and had a booster dose in September of 2021. The health check comes at a critical juncture in Biden’s presidency since right now he has many responsibilities, including the fact that the House of Representatives is deciding to send Biden’s massive “Build Back Better” social spending package to the Senate for approval.
Biden signed another bill into law earlier this week to fund the largest national infrastructure overhaul in more than half a century. President Biden is known as the oldest president in history, due to this since 2019, there has been a lot of curiosity about his health. Biden has suffered episodes of atrial fibrillation, a type of abnormal heartbeat that is potentially harmful but curable since 2003, according to Dr. O’Connor’s study (Biden’s main care physician since 2009). At the time, O’Connor noted a series of tests that revealed Biden’s heart was in good working order and that the only treatment he required was a blood thinner to avoid the possibilities of future strokes. In 1988, the president went through a very difficult time, since he almost died, needing surgery to repair two brain aneurysms, weak artery bulges, one of which was leaking. According to Biden’s doctor, he has never experienced another problem like this.
- Hindustan Times. 2021. Kamala Harris to get US presidential powers for a brief moment. Here’s why. [online] Available at: <https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/kamala-harris-to-get-us-presidential-powers-for-a-brief-moment-here-s-why-101637335927644.html > [Accessed 22 November 2021].
- mint. 2021. Kamala Harris gets US President’s power for 1 hr 25 min. [online] Available at: <https://www.livemint.com/news/world/kamala-harris-gets-us-president-s-power-for-1-hr-25-min-11637384097782.html > [Accessed 22 November 2021].
- Kate Sullivan, C., 2021. For 85 minutes, Kamala Harris became the first woman with presidential power. [online] CNN. Available at: <https://edition.cnn.com/2021/11/19/politics/kamala-harris-presidential-power/index.html> [Accessed 22 November 2021].