(Photo: Reuters / House TV)
Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) surprised Congress Monday night when she appeared for the 11th hour debt ceiling vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.
The Arizona congresswoman received at least three long rounds of applause from colleagues as she entered the Capitol building for the first time since she was shot in the head in Tucson in January.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi recognized Giffords on the floor, saying she is "the personification of courage, of sincerity, of admiration throughout the country."
"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," Pelosi said.
Giffords was all smiles as she was met with hugs and handshakes and surrounded by her colleagues. It has been less than two months since she was released from Houston’s TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital. At the time of her release, doctors said it may take months, or even years, of intensive therapy for her to relearn how to speak and walk.
The congresswoman was shot on Jan. 8 during a meeting with constituents at an Arizona Safeway. The gunman was Jared Lee Loughner, who ended up killing six people.
As she returned to Washington Monday, she wrote on her Facebook page, "The #Capitol looks beautiful and I am honored to be at work tonight."
Giffords returned to Washington to support the bipartisan bill "to prevent economic crisis," as her Facebook page indicated.
She voted yes on the bill, which would cut federal spending by at least $2.1 trillion over a decade and allow the debt limit to rise by at least that much as well.
The measure passed the House 269-161.
"I have closely followed the debate over our debt ceiling and have been deeply disappointed at what's going on in Washington," Giffords said in a statement.
"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."
She added, "I had to be here for this vote. I could not take the chance that my absence could crash our economy."
The bill heads to the Senate for a vote on Tuesday.