Psaki says Harris' time as acting president was historic, 'will be noted for many women, young girls'

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The one hour and 25 minutes that Kamala Harris served as acting president is a moment in history “that will be noted for many women, young girls across the country,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

Harris, who is the first female vice president, served as acting president of the United States Friday morning, when President Biden went under anesthesia for a routine colonoscopy and medical exam at Walter Reed Medical Center.

During that time, Harris was the first female to hold the office of president of the United States in history.

Biden resumed his duties as president just before noon Friday.

But when asked about Harris’ time as acting commander-in-chief, Psaki said that it was a historic moment.

“As a woman myself, I will note that, you know, the president, when he selected her to be his running mate, obviously knew he was making history, was making history that was long overdue, in our view,” Psaki said. “And part of that was selecting someone who could serve by your side as your partner, but also step in if you were if there was a reason to, and that includes the application of the 25th Amendment as was done this morning.”

Vice President Kamala Harris arrives at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland before traveling to Columbus, Ohio, on Nov.19, 2021. 

“He also, of course, we also know we make history every time they’re working together, every time she’s out there speaking on behalf of the government as the vice president of the United States,” Psaki said.

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

Biden named Harris acting president before going under anesthesia. Letters notifying Congress of the temporary transfer of power under Section 3 of the 25th Amendment were transmitted at 10:10 a.m. ET, and Biden resumed his duties at 11:35 a.m. after speaking with Harris, according to the White House.

The president traveled to Bethesda, Maryland, for a physical exam and colonoscopy, one day before his 79th birthday. Biden arrived at 8:51 a.m. ET and waved to reporters who were traveling with him.

“@POTUS was in good spirits” when he spoke with Harris, White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted. “He will remain at Walter Reed as he completes the rest of his routine physical.” 

The president also sent a formal letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Patrick Leahy, notifying them that he had resumed duties.

“In accordance with the provisions of section 3 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, I hereby transmit to you my written declaration that I am able to discharge the powers and duties of the Office of the President of the United States and that I am resuming those powers and duties,” the president’s letter stated.

Section 3 of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.”

“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,” Psaki said. “The vice president will work from her office in the West Wing during this time.” 

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    Vice President Kamala Harris is greeted by Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther as she arrives at John Glenn Columbus International Airport during a trip to promote the infrastructure plan, in Columbus, Ohio, Nov. 19, 2021.  (REUTERS/Gaelen Morse)

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    Vice President Kamala Harris waves as she departs after speaking at the Tribal Nations Summit in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, in Washington.  (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Psaki added that the White House will publicly release a written summary of Biden’s physical later Friday afternoon. 

Harris was spotted arriving to the White House Friday morning. She departed for Washington for Columbus, Ohio, Friday afternoon for an event highlighting the bipartisan infrastructure law that Biden signed this week.

A Fox News Poll released Thursday showed that 53% of registered voters believe Biden’s age is interfering with his job.

Biden had his last full exam in December 2019, when doctors found the former vice president to be “healthy, vigorous” and “fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency,” according to a doctor’s report at the time.

When Psaki was asked in October about when Biden would get a physical exam, she promised, “When he gets a physical, we will make all of that information available.”

In May, Psaki was asked about Biden’s health.

“I can tell you, having traveled with him a fair amount, sometimes he’s hard to keep up with,” Psaki, 42, insisted.

Biden, the oldest man to serve as president, is scheduled to participate in the annual pardoning of the national Thanksgiving turkey Friday afternoon.

Harris, meanwhile, the first woman, person of color and person of South Asian descent to be vice president, made history during the short time she served as acting president.

Fox News’ Paul Conner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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