For the first time since the Jan. 8 assassination attempt against her, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returned to Congress.
Giffords made her unexpected return to the Capitol on Monday to vote for the debt ceiling bill. It was her first vote since suffering a gunshot wound to the head at a meet-and-greet with constituents in Tucson.
The congresswoman was met with a standing applause and hugs from friends and colleagues when she entered the chamber. According to numerous media outlets, Giffords, who wore short-cropped hair and glasses, arrived in a wheelchair. But on the House floor, she stood to hug and shake hands.
The surprising news was first announced by Giffords’ office on Twitter, in a message reading, “Gabrielle has returned to Washington to support a bipartisan bill to prevent economic crisis.”
In a press release, Giffords said the vote was too important for her to miss.
“I have closely followed the debate over our debt ceiling and have been deeply disappointed in what’s going on in Washington,” Giffords said. “After weeks of failed debate in Washington, I was pleased to see a solution to this crisis emerge. I strongly believe that crossing the aisle for the good of the American people is more important than party politics. I had to be here for this vote. I could not take the chance that my absence could crash our economy.”
The vote will no doubt fuel a new round of speculation on Giffords’ political future and whether her return to Congress is the beginning of a comeback.
Giffords, her staff and her family have not made any announcements on whether she would seek reelection in 2012, and news reports about the slow pace of her recovery cast doubt on her ability to run and serve. But if Giffords were well enough to run and announced a bid for a fourth term in Congress, it would likely clear the field for the Tucson Democrat.
Colleagues from across the political spectrum welcomed Giffords’ return.
“Whatever your politics, it was a thrill Monday to see Congresswoman Giffords back on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and casting a vote along with her colleagues,” Gov. Jan Brewer said in a press statement. “The road back from a gunman’s bullet has been more difficult than any of us can possibly know, but her grit and determination continue to inspire. As with all Arizonans, I will hold Gabby in my thoughts and prayers as she continues her remarkable recovery.”
U.S. Rep. David Schweikert said “I am beyond joyful that my colleague, Gabby, returned to the work she loves today. What an amazing surprise to see her among all of her colleagues and friends. The recovery she had made to this point is truly remarkable. Arizonans everywhere are elated to see her and are grateful for her progress.”