Rep. Gabrielle Giffords made a surprise return to the House floor on Monday to cast her vote to raise the debt ceiling. It was her first appearance in the Capitol since she was shot in the head in January in Tucson, Ariz.
Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, entered the House chambers through a side door during the vote. Her arrival prompted applause on the Democratic side of the chamber, which then spread through the House, the Washington Post reported.
A standing ovation lasted throughout the rest of the vote on the compromise measure, the New York Times reported.
In an emotional moment, lawmakers surrounded her and hugged her, according to the Miami Herald. She took a seat in the back and was among the last representatives to vote, casting a "yes" vote, according to Forbes. Giffords left the House chamber walking slowly. Her husband, the astronaut Mark Kelly, accompanied her.
Vice President Joe Biden said, according to the Miami Herald:
"I'll tell you what," he said. "She's the embodiment of a strong, strong, strong, woman. Think about what that woman's been through, and think about her determination."
Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a close friend, said that Giffords had been watching the debt debate from her home in Arizona, the New York Times reported. Wasserman Schultz said Giffords' husband called her late Sunday night wanting to know how close the vote was. He said Giffords wanted to be there if her "yes" vote was needed.
Wasserman Schultz said it wasn't, but Giffords wanted to be there for the vote anyway. On Monday morning, she accompanied her husband on his already-planned trip to Washington.
“She decided that if it’s not pivotal, it’s important to her constituents that she be there for the vote,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz said. “She would be a yes vote, she said, and she wanted to cast a vote.”
And when Giffords cast her vote, according to the New York Times:
“The room just exploded,” said Ms. Wasserman Schultz, recalling the moment that she looked up to see the light by Ms. Giffords’s name light up when she cast her vote. “We’ve all seen her empty light and we all wanted to see her name light up.”
According to Forbes:
"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 released later.
"After weeks of failed debate in Washington, I was pleased to see a solution to this crisis emerge," she said. "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."
Giffords was shot in the head and critically wounded at an event for constituents in her home district in January and has been working hard to recover, according to CBS News.