To the nation's surprise, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returned to the House of Representatives today to vote for the bipartisan debt ceiling deal.

The vote was her first since the January 8 shooting, in which six were killed, 13 injured, and the Congresswoman was shot clear through the left side of the brain. As she underwent rehabilitation in the months that followed, many speculated about whether Giffords would be able to return to her duties and serve again.

Her return at such a crucial time is "important and symbolic," said Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi after the vote. "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."

Giffords' dramatic entrance met with a dramatic welcome, as surprised colleagues applauded, cheered and made their way to hug and kiss her. Only a single tweet minutes before she entered the House floor alerted the public to her return.

Giffords cast her vote for the debt-limit bill and then left the Capitol, according to Associated Press reports.

The bill, which is needed to avert a possible national default, passed the House 269-161. It will now go on to the Senate, which is expected to vote Tuesday.