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Giffords' vote made it more special

The total number of votes on the historic US debt-limit bill was 430. One vote was more memorable than any of the others.

world Updated: Aug 02, 2011 22:26 IST

The total number of votes on the historic US 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, blew kisses and 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. Her image was quite different from the one Americans saw seven months ago when she was sworn in for a third two-year term by Republican house speaker John Boehner.

"It was one of the most thrilling moments for all of us to see this real heroine return to the House," said Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic minority leader, "and to do so at such a dramatic time."

Giffords cast her vote for the bill, which passed 269-161.

Giffords' return raised questions about her political future. She has not filed for re-election, but Democrats have fueled speculation about another House bid or even a run for the open Senate seat. Republican Sen Jon Kyl is retiring. The latest financial reports show the Arizona Democrat with more than $787,000 in the bank at the end of June, thanks to friends and colleagues who have raised money to ensure she has the resources for a campaign.

But Giffords' appearance in Washington was brief Monday night and she returned to Houston for therapy.

On January 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 after a judge concluded he was mentally incompetent to stand trial on 49 charges.

The vote marked the latest milestone in Giffords' recovery. She has made two trips to Florida to watch her astronaut husband in the shuttle launch. She also underwent surgery to repair a piece of her skull that had been removed.