As lawmakers stood on the floor, staring up at the vote board, Giffords slowly made her way through an entrance on the Democratic side of the chamber. Applause built and rolled like a wave through the House as lawmakers realized that their colleague had returned.
On Jan. 8, Giffords, D-Ariz., was shot in the head in the parking lot of a Tucson grocery store while meeting with constituents. Six people were killed and 13 others, including Giffords, were wounded. The man charged in the shooting, Jared Lee Loughner, has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges.
On the House floor, Giffords hugged and kissed fellow lawmakers. As time ticked off on the vote, Democrats and Republicans made their way toward her.
She cast her first vote - for the debt-limit bill - and left the Capitol.
"It means so much to our country ... to witness the return of our colleague who is the personification of courage, of sincerity, of admiration throughout the country," Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California told the House.
Giffords has been undergoing outpatient therapy in Houston since her release from the hospital in June.
Loughner was sent to a federal prison facility in Springfield, Mo., after a federal judge concluded he was mentally incompetent to stand trial.