Gabrielle Giffords makes emotional return to House floor

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords made an emotional return to the House floor tonight to thunderous applause from her colleagues just moments before the president’s arrival for the State of the Union address.

The appearance by Giffords, largely absent from the House since the Jan. 8, 2011 shooting that nearly took her life, is to be one of her final acts as a member of Congress before she submits her resignation Wednesday.

The Arizona Democrat, accompanied by her chief of staff, was silent as she arrived in the Speaker’s Lobby before taking the floor.


Earlier, she met with a group of close friends, including Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Giffords entered the room to a standing ovation and made her way to a seat between fellow Arizona Reps. Jeff Flake and Raul Grijalva. Last year, a seat between the two sat empty in her honor.

As he filed onto the House floor, President Obama embraced Giffords.

According to Giffords’ office, she will formally submit a letter of resignation to House Speaker John Boehner Wednesday morning, to be effective at day’s end.

“Every day I am working hard. I will recover and will return and we will work together again for Arizona and for all Americans,” the letter will say.

After handing over the letter, the House will vote on a bill Giffords introduced, described by her office as a bill that would, “impose tough new penalties on smugglers who use small, low-flying aircraft to illegally bring drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border.”

Kim Geiger in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.