Gabrielle Giffords Makes Unexpected Return to Congress

Gabrielle Giffords Makes Unexpected Return to Congress

Gabrielle Giffords made a triumphant return to Congress on Monday night.

It was arranged by her good friend, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Giffords's husband, astronaut Mark Kelly.

"Mark called me on Sunday night and we talked about it, he said that Gabby had been following the debate and the discussion," the Congresswoman told The Early Show.

Giffords had been following the intense debt ceiling debate and was determined to take her place for the important vote. Her unexpected arrival riveted the nation.

Everyone was stunned to see Giffords on the House floor. She hugged her colleagues, waved, and even blew kisses. Many were moved to tears.

Giffords received a seven-minute standing ovation from Democrats and Republicans. It was a rare moment of unity after one of the most bitterly partisan weeks in memory.

Giffords wrote in a statement:

"I have closely followed the debate and have been deeply disappointed at what's going on in Washington. I strongly believe that crossing the aisle for the good of the American people is more important than party politics."

Politico's Beth Frerking says, "We suddenly saw this person that made everyone stop and take a deep breath and say, 'Oh that's right, we actually need to work together and here's an absolutely perfect reminder.' "

Giffords is still dealing with serious medical issues after she was shot in the head by a crazed gunman. She walked with difficulty, leaning on an aide for support, and her right arm hung, still bandaged, hung limply by her side. She used only her left arm to wave and hug her colleagues.

"Clearly she's not a hundred percent, and I wouldn't expect her to ever be one hundred percent but certainly she's an inspiring example of how the brain can heal in remarkable ways," said neurosurgeon Dr. Katrina Firlik.

Giffords left the House floor immediately after the vote and was whisked away in a black SUV. She reportedly returned to Houston to continue therapy.

But her appearance in Washington, however brief, was monumental, lifting spirits and bringing together a divided nation with a brave heart and irrepressible smile.

As Giffords continues her rehab, her aides say any decision on running for reelection is "down the road."