Gabrielle Giffords appears for debt deal vote (VIDEO)
Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in January, surprised many when she appeared for the historic House vote on the debt deal, Monday.
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Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., a friend of Giffords, said she found out that the congresswoman would cast her vote from a 2 a.m. text message she received from Kelly.Skip to next paragraph
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"It's an incredibly important vote, pivotal for the country. And she felt it was really important that she be here to represent her district," said Wasserman Schultz, who added that Giffords had been reviewing the legislation.
"She still has rehabilitation to go through and a lot of recovery. So she's not ready to come back full time. But she wanted her district to have its voice here on probably the most important vote we'll cast this Congress," Wasserman Schultz said.
Giffords' political future remains uncertain. She has not filed for re-election next year though she has money for another bid, thanks to friends and colleagues who want to ensure she has the resources necessary. Documents filed with the Federal Election Commission last month show the Arizona Democrat had more than $787,000 in the bank at the end of June.
In Tucson on Monday, Pam Simon, a Giffords staffer who also survived the shooting, said she and everyone in her office huddled around the TV to watch the congresswoman's return to the floor.
"We were glued to it," she said. "We were hugging and some of us were in tears and some people were shouting. It was very joyful."
As a fellow survivor, Simon said she was "absolutely thrilled."
"I felt extremely emotional," she said. "It's a landmark. It signifies how far we've all come.
"We will be forever tied to that tragic event," she added. "Seeing Gabby there is just a wonderful step for us all."
She said she thought Giffords looked excited yet relaxed.
"Knowing Gabby, I know she is just so happy to be back among her colleagues," she said. "Didn't she look right at home?"
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., a friend of Giffords, said in a statement that she had "tears of joy seeing Gabby on the floor tonight where she belongs."
"Gabby is a fighter and I always knew this day would come. She continues to inspire the nation with her strength and courage," Gillibrand said.
Giffords has been undergoing outpatient therapy in Houston since her release from the hospital in June.
Shortly after her appearance, a tweet appeared on Giffords' Twitter account: "The Capitol looks beautiful and I am honored to be at work tonight."
The man charged in the shooting, Jared Lee Loughner, has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges. Loughner was sent to a federal prison facility in Springfield, Mo., after a federal judge concluded he was mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Ron Barber, another Giffords staffer who survived the shooting, said he was in physical therapy for a gunshot wound to the thigh when she voted but that he tuned in when returned to his Tucson home.
"I have to admit I wept," Barber said. "All of us who were with her that day are encouraged by her progress."
Watch Rep. Giffords as she receives applause on the House floor: