It was the colonoscopy that made history.
While President Biden went under anesthesia on Friday for the routine medical procedure, Vice President Kamala Harris assumed the powers of commander in chief.
It was the first time that someone who wasn’t a man served in that role, even temporarily. Biden ceded his authority to Harris from 7:10 a.m. (Pacific) to 8:35 a.m., and the White House said she spent the time working from her office in the West Wing.
The transfer of power was a reminder of Harris’ standing as the first woman and the first person of color to be vice president.
“Has the glass ceiling shattered?” said Bakari Sellers, a political ally of Harris. “No, but it does have another crack.”
The moment also provided a glimpse of a future that has so far proved elusive for American women. Several have run for the nation’s highest office — Hillary Clinton, of course, came the closest — but none have succeeded.
Harris herself sought the Democratic presidential nomination before dropping out early in last year’s primary. Biden chose her as his vice president shortly before accepting the nomination himself.
“It’s a really dope experience,” added Sellers of Harris’ brief moment as commander in chief. “It has to warm your heart.”
Harris has drawn outsized attention not only because of her historic status, but because of Biden’s age. He is the oldest person to be sworn in as president, and he turns 79 on Saturday.
Biden received the colonoscopy during what the White House described as his regular physical examination.
The transfer of power was handled under section 3 of the 25th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which allows the president to voluntarily transfer authority to the vice president.
It’s not an unusual step. President George W. Bush did the same thing with Vice President Dick Cheney in 2002 and 2007.