Giffords border legislation heads to White House

January 26, 2012

In a few brief seconds Thursday, the Senate joined in the farewell celebration for Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Democrat who resigned from the House on Wednesday a year after the Tucson shootings that left six dead and 13 injured.

Late Thursday, by unanimous consent, the Senate approved her legislation that imposes tougher penalties on cross-border smugglers of drugs, an issue that has been in the spotlight for several years in her southern Arizona district.


Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords stood among cheering, crying House colleagues to say goodbye Wednesday. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

“What a wonderful statement that was made by members of the House yesterday, signifying the great courage the whole country feels for this great woman. … We all wish her the best,” Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said after the last bill authored by Giffords was approved. It now goes to President Obama for his signature, following Wednesday’s 408-to-0 vote in the House also approving the bill.

The House vote came amid an emotional send-off Wednesday for the lawmaker, who has made remarkable strides after being shot in the head but announced last week that she needs to devote herself full-time to her recovery.

Security has become a central issue along the Arizona-Mexico border following several high-profile shootings. Giffords had previously won support of border legislation in August 2010, which she touted in her tough reelection victory that November.

This new legislation takes aim at smugglers who use low-flying ultra-light planes to cross the border and deliver drugs. According to her office, the bill eliminates a loophole that targeted drug smuggling by car and airplane. It would, her office said, “establish the same penalties for trafficking, whether by plane, automobile or ultra light: up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.”

Paul Kane covers Congress and politics for the Washington Post.
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