Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Giffords gets ovation, president's embrace on eve of resignation

CNN reports: U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords took a few steps into the House chamber and absorbed a 90-second standing ovation before the State of the Union address last night, the eve of her resignation to focus on recovering from her shooting last year.

Giffords, escorted by colleagues including her friend U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, smiled and waved as attendees stood and cheered, with some chanting "Gab-by! Gab-by!"

Her husband, retired Navy captain and former astronaut Mark Kelly, smiled as he watched from his seat near first lady Michelle Obama. As President Barack Obama entered a few minutes later, the president paused at Giffords' seat and gave her a long embrace and a kiss on the cheek.

And when she stood during the speech and applauded Obama's lines, the Arizona Democrat was helped to her feet by a Republican and fellow Arizonan, U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, who probably wouldn't be standing with Democrats during applause lines otherwise.

"It was the least I could do," Flake told CNN after the address. "It was just an incredible experience to be there with her, particularly after last year, having an empty chair where she should have been. It was just an overwhelming, emotional experience for, I think, all of us."

Giffords plans to submit a final vote on a bill that she and Flake introduced, one that would crack down on drug smuggling at the U.S. border that is conducted by smugglers using ultra-light aircraft.

She will then submit her resignation letter to House Speaker John Boehner on the House floor this morning. According to Giffords' office, Wasserman Schultz will read the letter from the well of the House, and it will end with a statement indicating Giffords will return to public service.

"Every day I am working hard. I will recover and will return and we will work together again for Arizona and all Americans," the letter will say, according to Giffords' office.

UPDATE: Giffords officially resigns from Congress

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