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Giffords officially resigns from Congress

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., resigns from Congress today to focus on recovering from an assassination attempt on her life last year.

On the House floor Wednesday morning, the day after her appearance at the president’s State of the Union address in the same chamber, Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords formally offered her resignation to Speaker John Boehner.

Walking with a limp and guided by her friend, Democratic Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Giffords made her way to the well at the front of the chamber. Other members of the Arizona delegation surrounded her as Republican Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake held her hand.

A crying Wasserman Schultz applauded the strength of her colleague. "I am so proud of my friend," she said, placing on her hand on Giffords' back and wiping back tears. "It will always be one of the great treasures of my life to have met Gabby Giffords and to have served with her in this body,” the Florida congresswoman added.

"Even though I know we won’t see each other every day," she concluded, "We will be friends for life." The two then embraced, as Wasserman Schultz began to read Giffords' resignation letter.



"Even as I have worked to regain my speech, thank you for your faith in my ability to be your voice," said Giffords in her note. She vowed to focus on her recovery and to return, one day, to a life of public service.

"Everyday, I am working hard. I will recover and will return, and we will work together again, for Arizona and for all Americans," she pledged.

Read her resignation letter here (.pdf)

Assisted by Wasserman Schultz, Giffords climbed up to the speaker's perch and delivered the letter herself. An emotional chamber gave her a standing ovation.

Earlier, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in tribute, "God gave her a very special mission. He gave it to Gabby Giffords because He knew she could carry that burden because he had blessed her with so many, many gifts and a very loving family to make her the person that she is.”

Saul Loeb / AP

President Barack Obama embraces retiring Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., on Jan. 24, 2012.

Her husband, retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, watched Schultz read his wife’s resignation letter, his hands covering his face at moments. Her mother, Gloria, sat next to him in the gallery.

Before resigning, Giffords voted in favor of a bill which she introduced shortly before being shot last January. It passed unanimously, 408-0.

Giffords was shot in the head during a constituent event in January 2011.  Six people were killed and 13, including Giffords, were injured. 

Saul Loeb / EPA

A look at the Arizona lawmaker's rise to prominence — from high school to Capitol Hill.