US debt crisis: Gabrielle Giffords makes dramatic return to Washington
Gabrielle Giffords, the US congressman who was shot in the head earlier this year, made a dramatic return to Washington on Monday night to vote on raising the debt ceiling.
Gabrielle Giffords stunned colleagues and onlookers by walking on to the floor of the House of Representatives just after 7pm to cast a "yes" vote.
Minutes earlier, aides to Miss Giffords, a Democrat for Arizona, announced on her Twitter page: "Gabrielle has returned to Washington to support a bipartisan bill to prevent economic crisis".
Miss Giffords, 41, who had not appeared in public since being shot in January, received a standing ovation lasting almost 10 minutes, while she hugged and kissed colleagues and chatted to well-wishers.
In a statement, she said she had been "deeply disappointed" by the political wrangling of recent days.
"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."
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House leader, described her as "the personification of courage". In a short speech following the vote, she said: "Throughout America there isn't a name that stirs more love, admiration and respect.
"Her presence here in the chamber, as well as her entire service in Congress, brings honour to this chamber," she said. "We are all privileged to call her a colleague, some of us privileged to call her a friend." Miss Giffords responded with a wave.
Miss Giffords was accompanied by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman and the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and her closest friend in Washington.
The appearance marked an extraordinary recovery since January 8, when she was seriously wounded during a rampage at a meet-the-voters event in a supermarket carpark in Tucson.
Six people, including a nine-year-old girl and a federal judge, were killed in the attack, while another 13 were injured. Jared Lee Loughner, a local 22-year-old, has been charged with the killings.