|Page (1) of 1 - 08/01/11||email article||print page|
Wounded US lawmaker makes first appearance in House since shooting to vote on debt measure
WASHINGTON (AP) ' The total number of votes on the historic debt-limit bill was 430. One vote was more memorable than any of the others.
Seven months after she was shot in the head, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returned to the House on Monday to cast her vote. Thunderous applause and emotional hugs from her Republican and Democratic colleagues greeted her.
Giffords' entrance, with just minutes remaining in the vote, surprised lawmakers and added even more drama to a high-stakes day. The Arizona Democrat responded to the attention with a smile, and she mouthed "thank you" several times.
Colleagues, surprised and joyful, made their way to greet her as she was enveloped in a cluster of Democratic lawmakers.
Giffords used one hand to greet some, the other by her side. Her hair was dark and closely cropped, and she wore glasses.
Giffords cast her vote for the bill, which passed 269-161.
Giffords exited the House chamber by the east door, leaning heavily on an aide as she walked with obvious difficulty. Her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, accompanied her. Police had cleared a path through a mob of reporters, and Giffords did not respond to questions and greetings.
Near the doorway to the House, Vice President Joe Biden greeted Giffords and marveled at her return.
"She's remarkable. Will matters," Biden said in an interview. "She's the embodiment of a strong, strong, strong woman. Think about what that woman's been through, and think about her determination."
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a friend of Giffords, said the wounded congresswoman returned to Houston right after her appearance. She said Giffords "still has a long way to go" in her recovery, and "will be back at all her therapies" Wednesday.
On Jan. 8, Giffords was shot in the head in the parking lot of a Tucson grocery store while meeting with constituents. Six people were killed and 13 others, including Giffords, were wounded. The man charged in the shooting, Jared Lee Loughner, was sent to a federal prison facility in Springfield, Missouri, after a federal judge concluded he was mentally incompetent to stand trial on 49 charges.