No, Kamala Harris Was Not the First Female President During Biden’s Colonoscopy. Here's Why
(Bloomberg) -- For the first time, a woman officially became acting president of the United States on Friday, but that didn’t make Kamala Harris the first female president.
President Joe Biden transferred the “power and duty” of the president to the Vice President for an hour and 25 minutes while he was under anesthesia for a routine colonoscopy, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
That made Harris the “acting president” under rules prescribed in Section 3 of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. Biden sent one letter to congressional leaders initiating the period and another ending it.
The transfer has only happened twice before under the rules prescribed by Section 3, for President George W. Bush’s colonoscopies in 2002 and 2007. President Ronald Reagan transferred power to Vice President George H.W. Bush when he needed anesthesia in 1985, but explicitly said in his letter to Congress that he was not formally invoking the amendment.
The 25th Amendment, ratified in 1967, was prompted by John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the questions it raised about presidential succession in the event of the severe illness or death of a commander in chief. It was also influenced by the first time a woman took on many of the powers of the presidency, albeit a century ago and far less formally than Harris did on Friday.
After Woodrow Wilson was partially paralyzed by a stroke In 1919, First Lady Edith Wilson pre-screened executive matters for her husband after Vice President Thomas Marshall refused to assumed the duties of the presidency out of concern for the precedent it would set. So, instead, Wilson took over many of the routine details of government, leading some to call her the “acting president.” Wilson later called it “stewardship” of the presidency and stressed that she didn’t make major decisions or changes in her role.
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