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To roaring applause and steady tears, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords received a hero’s tribute on the House floor before officially stepping down from her Congressional seat.
For at least an hour today, the bitter cold of hyper-partisanship melted in the House chamber as Republicans and Democrats put aside their personal and ideological differences to heap praise on Giffords.
The three-term Arizona Democrat, who announced Sunday that she would resign to continue her recovery process after being shot in the head last January, was feted by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as “the brightest star among us; the brightest star Congress has ever seen.”
The California Democrat said she will miss Giffords but told the lawmaker, “Your legacy in this Congress and your leadership to this nation will certainly endure. Thank you for being who you are, for lifting the country at an important and sad time.”
Giffords’ remarkable recovery has become an emotional rallying point for Members over the past year, and her send-off today evoked points of inspiration and calls for bipartisanship. Today’s floor events followed a similarly moving moment Tuesday night when President Barack Obama, moments before delivering his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress, embraced a beaming Giffords who made the trek to Washington to witness the speech.
Today, Members from both parties offered soaring remarks to their departing colleague.
“We are inspired, hopeful and blessed for the incredible progress that Gabby has made in her recovery,” Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told nodding colleagues.
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, a close Giffords confidant, declared, “None of us on this floor are talented enough to summon the rhetoric that all of us feel in our hearts.”
While the Maryland Democrat drew wide applause, it was Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Giffords’ closest friend in the House, whose comments stirred the most emotion on the floor.
“I couldn’t prepare anything this morning because I knew that I would not be able to hold it together very long,” the Florida Democrat confessed. “I am so proud of my friend and it will always be one of the great treasures of my life to have met Gabby Giffords and to serve with her in this body.”