Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head while meeting with constituents in Arizona in January, made a dramatic return to the House of Representatives on Monday to cast her vote in favor of the measure to raise the debt ceiling. The House passed the bill, 269-161. Giffords was among the 95 Democrats who joined 174 Republicans in voting in favor of raising the debt ceiling and avoiding default.

Giffords, 41, had not been in Washington since the shooting. She has been undergoing intense physical and occupational therapy in Houston. She did make a well-publicized trip to Florida to watch her husband, the astronaut Mark Kelly, lift off in one of the last Space Shuttle missions.

The congresswoman’s return to the Capitol caught most everyone by surprise. Shortly before she cast her vote, her office Tweeted: “Gabrielle has returned to Washington to support a bipartisan bill to prevent economic crisis. Turn on C-SPAN now: j.mp/hmYxTM.”

With two minutes left in the voting on the debt ceiling, Giffords walked into the chamber and hugged Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader. The House erupted in an enthusiastic standing ovation. It was the only moment of unity the chamber has seen in the weeks of wrangling over the debt ceiling legislation.

Calling Giffords “the personification of courage,” Pelosi said: “Throughout America, there isn’t a name that stirs more love, more admiration, more respect, more wishing for our daughters to be like her than the name Gabby Giffords. Thank you Gabby.”

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2011/08/01/20110801giffords-casting-debt-vote-washington.html#ixzz1TpVv8H8r

After Giffords cast her vote, she Tweeted: “The #Capitol looks beautiful and I am honored to be at work tonight.”

The following post was added to her Facebook page: “Gabby is voting to support the bipartisan debt-ceiling compromise. This is a huge step in her recovery, and an example of what we all know — she is determined to get better, and to serve CD8 and our nation. This vote — expected to be very close — was simply too important for her to miss.”

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