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Rep. Gabrielle Giffords with her House colleagues after voting for a bill to raise the federal debt ceiling, in this image from House Television. (AP)

Gabby Giffords' Return To House Floor: A Break In Partisan Storm

Aug 1, 2011

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Reported by

Frank James

There are very few Capitol Hill news stories that could have rivaled the passage of the debt-ceiling legislation by the House Monday, which was obviously a huge story.

But the return of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to the House chamber to cast a "yes" vote on the bill was certainly one of them.

It was her first public appearance there since January when she was shot in the head in Tucson, AZ as she greeted constituents at a shopping center.

Ever since the shooting, in which six people were killed and 13 wounded, during all the months of her arduous rehabilitation, it was an open question whether Giffords would ever return to her duties as a member of Congress.

It seemed miracle enough that she had survived at all, that she was actually able to communicate, and read, and walk at all, even if haltingly.

That she might return to Congress anytime soon, while something everyone wished for, didn't seem especially likely.

But there she was, standing on the floor of the House, waving as her colleagues, congressional aides and guests gave her repeated ovations.

There she was clearly mouthing the words "thank you" in response to the ovations of respect, awe, and, yes, love, those in the chamber showered on her.

There she was actually casting a vote on the debt-ceiling bill which, she said in a statement, she had been following for weeks.

The irony of her her appearance on the floor at a time when partisan rancor in Washington had risen to a high roar was probably only lost on the truly oblivious.

After the tragedy in Tucson, politicians and pundits urged a shocked nation to draw the lesson from that terrible day that a more civil political debate was needed. But the nation soon reverted to form.

Coming when it did, Giffords' appearance in the House chamber was a reminder of that appeal to our better angels, which briefly had sway in January.

Her presence, as well as the bipartisan support for the bill — 174 Republicans and 95 Democrats voted for it — were welcome breaks in the clouds of the endless partisan storm that, this week, led the nation to the brink of financial default.

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