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Kamala Harris Was ‘President for a Day’

Vice President Kamala Harris took over the president’s schedule while Biden was at the dentist.    

By Gage Skidmore: U.S. Senator Kamala Harris speaking with attendees at the 2019 National Forum on Wages and Working People hosted by the Center for the American Progress Action Fund and the SEIU at the Enclave in Las Vegas, Nevada.

You know the old saying when people are confronted with an unpleasant situation – “I would rather have a root canal.” That’s what Joe Biden specifically endured on June 12. And more worryingly for Republicans, Vice President Kamala Harris took over the president’s schedule while Biden was at the dentist.    

She Was a Stand-in

Harris stood in for the president during College Athlete Day with various university champions – an appearance she made with the first gentleman. So, it wasn’t like the vice president undertook serious pressing matters that involved national security. But it still feeds into the narrative that Harris could become president indefinitely should Biden become incapacitated for health reasons.

The Last Time She Became President Was in 2021

This happened before in November 2021 when Biden turned over the reins of government to Harris when he needed a prostate exam. The 25th Amendment to the Constitution was in play during this situation. The 25th Amendment says, “In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.”

In 2021, She Was President for Around an Hour

During that procedure, Harris was only acting president for about an hour. Biden at the age of 80 is the oldest president to ever hold office, and his advanced age means periodic visits to the doctor are necessary. In these situations, Harris can take over.

While the dental case with Biden is not expected to be serious and the 25th Amendment will not be invoked for the root canal procedure, it shows that Harris is waiting in the wings. This scares conservatives.

Trump fanned the flames with his own commentary regarding the 25th Amendment in 2020. “Crazy Nancy Pelosi is looking at the 25th Amendment in order to replace Joe Biden with Kamala Harris,” he said on Twitter. “The Dems want that to happen fast because Sleepy Joe is out of it!!!”

There is Historical Precedent

If Biden ever needed surgery, and would undergo anesthesia, the 25th Amendment would be in play again and Harris would assume the role of president. This could go on frequently depending on the seriousness of Biden’s health situation.

When Biden invoked the 25th Amendment on November 19, 2021, he wrote a letter to the Speaker of the House and to the Pro Tempore of the Senate. The memo to Nancy Pelosi said, “Today I will undergo a routine medical procedure requiring sedation. In view of present circumstances, I have determined to transfer temporarily the powers and duties of the office of President of the United States to the Vice President during the brief period of the procedure and recovery.” The letter to Senator Patrick Leahy had the same verbiage.

Then the president wrote a “resumption” letter that same day that said, “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.”

In 2007, President George W. Bush had a colonoscopy under sedation, and he installed Vice President Dick Cheney as acting president. In 1985, President Ronald Reagan had colon cancer surgery and he placed Vice President George H.W. Bush in charge.

In 1981, after Reagan was shot, discharge letters were prepared to make Bush the acting president, but they were never signed. A surgeon removed the bullet from Reagan, and he recovered in the hospital. The 25th Amendment was not invoked. 

We shouldn’t read too much into the latest turn of events that placed Harris in charge of the White House. It didn’t even last more than a day. But it gives fodder to Republicans and some Independents who fear that Harris could be president. She has been criticized mightily for her lack of communication skills and for not accomplishing anything of substance during her tenure. Biden is not removing her from the ticket. She is clearly next in line, and should the president have a more serious medical condition, the country may have to get used to Harris acting as the commander-in-chief for longer than 24 hours.

Author Expertise and Experience: Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

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Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.