WASHINGTON, August 1, 2011 (AFP) – U.S. lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords, who was seriously injured in a shooting rampage in January, made a dramatic return to the House of Representatives for the first time on Monday to vote for a major austerity bill.

The House chamber broke into a sudden standing ovation in the midst of voting as word spread that Giffords had entered. Fellow lawmakers embraced her as Giffords blew kisses and could be seen saying, “Thank you, thank you.”

Giffords, while thin and missing her once long locks of blonde hair, appeared to be in surprisingly good health, moving through the chamber with minimal assistance from an aide.

Giffords’ office announced her appearance on Twitter, with a message appearing after voting began: “Gabrielle has returned to Washington to support a bipartisan bill to prevent economic crisis.”

Representative Nancy Pelosi, the top House lawmaker of President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party, hailed her party colleague as a “personification of courage” and said that that no one had “more wishes for our daughters to be like her than Gabby Giffords.”

A gunman shot Giffords in the head on January 8 as she met constituents at a public forum at a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona. She has needed major rehabilitation to regain movement on the right side of her body.

Six people were killed in the rampage, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl.

Giffords, a centrist Democrat, supported the package that will authorize at least $2.1 trillion in spending cuts and raise the legal limit on the US debt in hopes of avoiding a default due in one day. â–