Gabrielle Giffords Stepping Down From Congress
WASHINGTON -- A little more than a year after a gunman opened fire at a market where Rep. Gabby Giffords was meeting constituents, the Arizona congresswoman, who was gravely injured in the attack, announced Sunday she was leaving her public office -- at least for now.
Six people died and 13 others were injured in the Jan. 8, 2011, violent outburst that left Giffords, 41, in a coma from a gunshot to the head.
Although her chances of even surviving were slim, Giffords managed a dramatic recovery and the Democrat representing Arizona's 8th Congressional District was able to return to the House of Representatives on occasion, even casting a vote shortly before Christmas.
But Sunday she announced her decision that she had more recovery work to do in a video posted on Facebook.
"I don't remember much from that horrible day, but I will never forget the trust you placed in me to be your voice," Giffords said, often smiling in a message that included scenes from her work as a congresswoman before the shooting as well as from her recuperation. "Thank you for your prayers and for giving me time to recover. I have more work to do on my recovery so to do what is best for Arizona. I will step down this week."
While Giffords is leaving her spot in Congress, she made clear she intends to make a full comeback from the tragedy that nearly cost her her life and stunned the nation.
"I'm getting better, every day," she said. "My spirit is high. I will return and we will work together for Arizona and this great country."
Her announcement brought immediate reaction from friends in Congress, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who was a freshman in the House with Giffords and grew close to her.
"For the past year, Gabby has shown the world the person I have always known -- an extraordinary woman of fierce drive, determination and courage," Gillibrand said in a statement. "Gabby made the right decision for her and her family, but this is just the beginning of the next chapter of her story. I know that Gabby will find other ways to fulfill her calling of public service and continue to lead and inspire the nation."
"Since the tragic events one year ago, Gabby has been an inspiring symbol of determination and courage to millions of Americans," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). "I join all my colleagues in Congress in thanking Gabby for the honor of [being able to call] her colleague and wishing Gabby and [husband Mark Kelly] great success and happiness. She will be missed in the House of Representatives, but her legacy in the Congress and her leadership for our nation will certainly continue."
"I salute Congresswoman Giffords for her service, and for the courage and perseverance she has shown in the face of tragedy. She will be missed," said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Before she leaves office this week, Giffords will complete the Congress on Your Corner event that was shattered by gunfire a year ago, although it is slated to be a private gathering with some of the other people who were at the fateful event, according to her office.
And as one of her last acts as a member of Congress, Giffords will be in attendance while President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union speech Tuesday, according to Giffords' office.
Once Giffords' resignation is official, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has 72 hours to announce a primary to replace her, which would be held 80 to 90 days later. Following that, a general election would be held in 50 to 60 days after primary.
On Sunday afternoon, Obama released the following statement regarding Giffords' resignation:
"Gabby Giffords embodies the very best of what public service should be. She's universally admired for qualities that transcend party or ideology -- a dedication to fairness, a willingness to listen to different ideas, and a tireless commitment to the work of perfecting our union. That's why the people of Arizona chose Gabby -- to speak and fight and stand up for them. That's what brought her to a supermarket in Tucson last year -- so she could carry their hopes and concerns to Washington. And we know it is with the best interests of her constituents in mind that Gabby has made the tough decision to step down from Congress.
Over the last year, Gabby and her husband Mark have taught us the true meaning of hope in the face of despair, determination in the face of incredible odds, and now -- even after she's come so far -- Gabby shows us what it means to be selfless as well.
Gabby's cheerful presence will be missed in Washington. But she will remain an inspiration to all whose lives she touched -- myself included. And I'm confident that we haven't seen the last of this extraordinary American."
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article erroneously referred to John Boehner as House majority leader. He is the House speaker. We sincerely regret the error.