WASHINGTON -- Like many Americans, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was watching with a sense of disgust in recent days as lawmakers on Capitol Hill flirted with the notion of defaulting on the country's debt.
"Just get it done," she said aloud, according to spokesman C.J. Karamargin.
She considered Monday's vote so momentous that she insisted on taking part in it, stunning colleagues when she walked into the House chamber for the first time since being shot in the head in Tucson last January.
"I think that 'just-get-it-done' sentiment is something a lot of people shared. That ultimately is what motivated her to go to Washington and participate in this historic vote," Karamargin said. Before the shooting, Giffords had twice voted against raising the debt ceiling in earlier years, but the final outcomes of those votes were not in doubt. She issued a statement after the vote that she could not take a chance that her absence this time around could prevent an increase in the debt ceiling and put the nation at risk of defaulting.
Giffords voted for the bill, which passed 269-161.
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who exchanged what she called "girl hugs" with Giffords on the House floor, said she did not encourage Giffords to come to Washington because she didn't believe the outcome would hinge on a single vote, as when Sen. Ted Kennedy, while battling a brain tumor, returned to the Senate floor in 2008 to cast a decisive vote on Medicare legislation.
"She felt so strongly about it that she wanted to come and we are really very, very proud that she did," Pelosi said. "It was a great moment. When the green light went up on the screen next to her name, it was a highly emotional moment for us."
Karamargin said Giffords met privately with her staff in Washington Tuesday morning. She then left for Houston, where she is continuing to undergo outpatient therapy.
Arizona politicians are eagerly awaiting a decision on whether Giffords is going to seek re-election in 2012. Karamargin said Tuesday she wants to remain in Congress, but it depends on the progress of her recovery.
"Going to Washington to cast a vote that's absolutely critical to the country doesn't change the fact she still has work to do in her recovery," Karamargin said.