On Monday afternoon, it would have seemed unlikely that anyone could steal the thunder of the debt standoff compromise, but someone did.
Monday evening, with two minutes remaining on the voting clock, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) returned to the House floor for the first time since her near-fatal shooting in Tucson seven months ago to cast her ballot on the compromise.
Her appearance was only a prelude: Tuesday morning CBS News’s the Early Show announced on Twitter Giffords would run for relection in November. However, her spokeswoman C.J. Karamargin said in a statement that the congresswoman’s support for Monday’s debt deal should not be seen as the launch of a 2012 campaign. “Congresswoman Giffords is focused on her recovery,” he said. “No decision has been made about 2012.”
Giffords appeared with cropped, brown hair and still-visible scars on her head, beaming and saying thank you as she received a standing ovation, cheers and hugs from her colleagues. One legislator even “dropped his dignity and climbed on a chair to see what the fuss was about,” The Post’s David Fahrenthold and Felicia Sonmez reported.
On her Facebook and Twitter pages, Giffords wrote:
The #Capitol looks beautiful and I am honored to be at work tonight.
More than 4,000 people commented in response to Gifford’s post. A man from Oregon named Bill Hause responded by saying: “Welcome back Gabby, EVERYONE in this Nation loves you. But please don’t overdo [it]. We need you to mend the divisions in Congress.”
Giffords seemed to know that was true.
“I have closely followed the debate over our debt ceiling and have been deeply disappointed at what’s going on in Washington,” Giffords said in a statement later. “I had to be here for this vote. I could not take the chance that my absence could crash our economy.”
Twice before, in February 2010 and December 2009, Giffords voted against raising the debt limit.
But this time, after Giffords went to a voting machine and punched the button, a green “Y” appeared next to her name: Yes.
Watch Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) welcome Giffords back: