A single vote, a wave of the hand, and a few blown kisses. That’s all it took for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to melt weeks of partisan bickering inside the Capitol.
Giffords, the congresswoman now affectionately known as “Gabby” to most Americans, appeared unexpectedly on the House floor Monday night and cast her first vote in person since suffering a gunshot wound to the head in January during an assassination attempt in Tucson. She voted in favor of a deal to cut spending and raise the nation’s debt limit—a show of bipartisanship by a Democrat.
Giffords’ shooting at point-blank range horrified the nation, and her recovery inspired Republicans and Democrats alike. But on Monday night, her appearance offered a rare moment of bipartisan affection after weeks of intense bickering over the so-called debt deal.
“The #Capitol looks beautiful and I am honored to be at work tonight,” the congresswoman tweeted.
She entered the House chamber moments before the vote on the debt deal ended, helped to her seat by Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL). Her colleagues, stunned by the unexpected appearance, stood and applauded and gathered around her, almost oblivious to the final tally of the high-stakes debt vote.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi addressed the chamber as colleagues continued to cheer their once-fallen colleague, saying Giffords was the “personification of courage.”
Giffords waved in appreciation and blew kisses.
The moment was so dramatic that reporters didn’t even notice that during her entrance, the vote total crossed the 210 threshold. The final total of House members who voted for the measure was 269, one of them Giffords’.
Following her dramatic appearance, Vice President Joe Biden, who said he came to the Hill "to give her a hug," met reporters on the way to his motorcade. Admitting that he knew only slightly in advance that Giffords had arrived, he praised her resilience.
“It scares the living devil out of you when you’re recovering from a serious thing like that,” he said during a long monologue. “She’s the embodiment of a strong, strong, strong woman.”