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Giffords insisted on casting vote

August 3, 2011

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WASHINGTON - Like many Americans, Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Democrat of Arizona, was watching with a sense of disgust in recent days as lawmakers on Capitol Hill flirted with the notion of defaulting on the country’s debt.

“Just get it done,’’ she said aloud, according to a spokesman, C.J. Karamargin.

She considered Monday’s vote so momentous that she insisted on taking part in it, stunning colleagues when she walked into the House chamber for the first time since being shot in the head in Tucson in January.

“I think that ‘just-get-it-done’ sentiment is something a lot of people shared. That ultimately is what motivated her to go to Washington,’’ Karamargin said.

Before the shooting, Giffords had twice voted against raising the debt ceiling in earlier years, but the final outcomes of those votes were not in doubt. She issued a statement after the vote that she could not take a chance her absence this time around could prevent an increase in the debt ceiling and put the nation at risk of defaulting.

Giffords voted for the bill, which passed, 269 to 161.

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who exchanged what she called “girl hugs’’ with Giffords on the House floor, said she did not encourage Giffords to come to Washington because she didn’t believe the outcome would hinge on a single vote, as when Senator Edward M. Kennedy, while battling a brain tumor, returned to the Senate floor in 2008 to cast a decisive vote on Medicare legislation.

“She felt so strongly about it that she wanted to come and we are really very, very proud that she did,’’ Pelosi said. “It was a great moment. When the green light went up on the screen next to her name, it was a highly emotional moment for us.’’

Karamargin said Giffords met privately with her staff in Washington yesterday morning. She then left for Houston, where she is continuing to undergo outpatient therapy to help her recover from the shooting.

Arizona politicians are eagerly awaiting a decision on whether Giffords is going to seek reelection in 2012. Karamargin said she wants to remain in Congress, but it depends on the progress of her recovery.

“Going to Washington to cast a vote that’s absolutely critical to the country doesn’t change the fact she still has work to do in her recovery,’’ Karamargin said.

Ron Barber, another Giffords staffer who survived the shooting, said he was in physical therapy for his gunshot wound to the thigh when Giffords voted, but he tuned in when he got back to his Tucson home.

“I have to admit I wept,’’ he said. “All of us who were with her that day are encouraged by her progress.’’

— Associated Press

Bork named to cochair Romney advisory panel Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney released the names of his new justice advisory committee yesterday, which will be cochaired by former Supreme Court nominee Judge Robert Bork.

According to the Romney campaign, the 63-member committee will advise Romney on issues of the Constitution, judicial matters, law enforcement, homeland security, and regulatory issues, and will provide legal counsel to his campaign. In addition to Bork, the committee will be cochaired by Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law School professor and former ambassador to the Vatican, and Richard Wiley, a communications attorney and former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

Bork is a conservative legal scholar who was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan, but was rejected by the Senate.

The cochairs said in a joint statement: “Mitt Romney deeply understands that the rule of law and the integrity of our courts are essential components of our nation’s strength and must be preserved. He will nominate judges who faithfully adhere to the Constitution’s text, structure, and history and he will carry out the duties of president as a zealous defender of the Constitution.’’

Other well-known committee members include Michael Chertoff, who was secretary of homeland security under President George W. Bush; New York University professor and former judge William Allen; retired Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Phillips; and other prominent lawyers.

— Shira Schoenberg

Harvard professor Carter nominated for defense post WASHINGTON - President Obama announced plans yesterday to nominate Ashton B. Carter, the government’s top weapons buyer, to the Pentagon’s number two position.

Carter would replace William J. Lynn III, who said last month that he plans to step down. Carter was among a raft of nominations the White House announced.

Carter, a longtime professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, has served as Obama’s undersecretary of defense for acquisition since 2009, charged with streamlining the acquisition process and squeezing savings from the defense budget.

That sometimes meant justifying cuts to programs popular with lawmakers, such as slicing funds for the F-22 Raptor jet.

In addition to Carter, Obama announced four others nominations to posts in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the US Fire Administration, the Department of Energy, and District of Columbia courts.

— Theo Emery

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