How Kamala Harris became the first female US president for an hour

The vice president became president of the United States for a bit over an hour. How did this happen?

Kamala Harris is sworn in as U.S. Vice President as her spouse Doug Emhoff holds a bible during the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
Kamala Harris is sworn in as U.S. Vice President as her spouse Doug Emhoff holds a bible during the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021.
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

US Vice President Kamala Harris became the first acting female US president on Friday — for 85 minutes.

President Joe Biden had a routine colonoscopy and chose to temporarily transfer powers to the vice president, making her acting president for the time of the examination. In that time, she served as president: the first woman to do so in the nation's history.

Acting presidents, according to The Wall Street Journal, have all the powers of the president except for naming a vice president. 

A section of the 25th Amendment states that presidents may temporarily transfer their powers to their vice president, should they be unable to do their job. It is not mandatory under circumstances such as a routine colonoscopy, but Biden chose to do so.

The president notified leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives of the decision. After his medical procedure, he submitted a letter reclaiming presidential powers. 

Former US president George Bush 370 (credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing)Former US president George Bush 370 (credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing)

The colon has historically been a source of presidential power transfers in the US. Former President Ronald Reagan transferred power to George H. W. Bush while undergoing colon cancer surgery, and George W. Bush transferred powers to then-vice president Dick Cheney twice while also undergoing colonoscopies. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the Biden administration knew that they "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.  But certainly, today was another chapter in that history that I think will be noted for many women [and] young girls across the country."