08/02/2011 at 07:00 AM EDT
Members of Congress may have bickered long and loudly about whether or not to raise the debt ceiling, but one thing brought together legislators on both sides of the aisle: celebrating Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords's triumphant return to the chamber to cast her first vote since being shot in the head
The unannounced – and emotional – appearance came as a surprise to her colleagues, who greeted the recuperating Rep. Giffords
with a standing ovation when she walked into the House on Monday, assisted by her chief of staff and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Recognizing colleagues and greeting them by name, Giffords brought tears to the eyes of many of the representatives, who gathered around to shake her hand. Some embraced her.
Giffords was one of 95 Democrats to vote in favor of raising the debt limit. The deal passed and is set to be voted on by the Senate Tuesday.
"I had to be here for this vote," the Congresswoman, 41, said in a statement. "I could not take the chance that my absence could crash our economy."
Giffords has been undergoing rehabilitation after being shot by an assailant
at an event at a Tucson supermarket parking lot on Jan. 8. Six people were fatally shot at the event, and another 13 – including Giffords, the target of the attack – were wounded.
"Her presence here in the chamber … brings honor to this chamber," Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Monday. "Throughout America, there isn't a name that stirs more love, more admiration, more respect, more wishing for our daughters to be like her than the name of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Thank you, Gabby."