U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) made a dramatic return to Congress Monday to vote on the debt bill, just seven months after she was nearly killed in an assassination attempt.
Giffords, who was shot in the head in January, looked steady as she returned to an explosion of applause on the floor of the House of Representatives.
She waved and said, “Thank you,” as colleagues from both parties cheered.
Giffords was flanked by her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, and her closest friend in Congress Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) to building applause from both sides of the aisle, a rare moment of unity during the recent fractious budget debates.
“The Capitol looks beautiful and I am honored to be at work tonight,” Giffords said in a Tweet.
It was her first Tweet sent in the first-person since she was shot during a constituents meeting at a Tucson strip mall.
Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), like Wasserman Schultz, a close Jewish friend and a fundraiser for Giffords, rushed over to hug her.
“This is a day for the history books,” said Wasserman Schultz in a statement. “We saved our country from going into default and my beloved friend and ever-optimistic colleague Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returned to the floor to cast her vote in favor of the future of our nation.”
“She smiled at me and said I love you, and it doesn’t get better than that,” Democratic whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) told Politico.com.
Giffords is the first Jewish women elected to statewide office in Arizona.
With Giffords’ support, the deal to raise the national debt ceiling passed the Republican-controlled House. It passed the Senate Tuesday and President Barack Obama signed it into law.
Giffords almost died when she was shot on Jan. 8. Six other people, including one of her aides and a federal judge, were killed and 12 others were wounded in the attack.
The man accused of carrying out the attack, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, has been diagnosed as schizophrenic and been ruled incompetent to stand trial.