And a house divided is united, ever so briefly, as Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) made a surprise appearance tonight during the U.S. House vote on the contentious debt ceiling agreement. The dramatic appearance on the floor to cast her vote in favor, was her first since being shot in the head in Tucson on January 8th. The chamber erupted into applause.
"I had to be here for this vote," she said in a statement. "I could not take the chance that my absence could crash our economy."
Giffords voted against raising the ceiling previously, in December of 2009 and February of 2010, but voted in favor of it today, as her staff noted that "this vote was substantially different, with the strength of the U.S. economy hanging in the balance."
The measure passed in the House following Giffords' appearance, by a vote of 269 to 161, with most of the 74-person Progressive Caucus, the largest in the House, voting against it. Democrats ultimately split their vote 95 to 95 on the controversial bill brokered by President Obama and Republicans, featuring the largest spending cut in the nation's history. GOP members voted overwhelmingly in favor of passage, 176 to 66.
The U.S. Senate is scheduled to take up the bill tomorrow, prior to the August 2 deadline when the U.S. Government is said to be no longer able to pay all of it's obligations unless the debt ceiling is raised. Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have already expressed their support.
UPDATE 8/2/11, 11:03am PT: Debt ceiling agreement has passed in U.S. Senate by a 74 to 26 margin. 19 Republicans and 7 Democrats voted against it. The President signed the bill, promising some $2 trillion in spending cuts, just moments ago, privately in the Oval Office. Mission Accomplished.