U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will step down from Congress this week to continue her recovery from a gunshot wound inflicted a year ago this month.
"I have more work to do on my recovery, so to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week," the congresswoman said in a video message released today to her constituents.
Giffords, a third-generation Arizonan who served five years in the state Legislature before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2006, will not seek re-election this fall.
But Giffords vowed that her career in public service has not come to an end.
"I will return and we will work together for Arizona and this great country," she said.
In the two-minute video, Giffords looked back on her career and urged her colleagues in Congress to continue her practice of working across party lines for the good of the country.
"A lot has happened over the past year," she said. "We cannot change that. But I know on the issues we fought for, we can change things for the better. Jobs, border security, veterans. We can do so much more by working together."
Giffords will submit her letter of resignation later this week to House Speaker John Boehner and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. The governor will set the date for special primary and general elections to determine who will serve the remainder of Giffords' term.
Before she leaves office, Giffords will finish her Congress On Your Corner event that was interrupted by a gunman on Jan. 8, 2011. In a private gathering in Tucson, Giffords will meet with some of the people who were at that event.
She will also meet and thank representatives of her advisory councils and others who have worked with her on issues of importance to her constituents.
She will visit the Gabrielle Giffords Family Assistance Center at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. The center, which opened in September, was established after people donated more than $215,000 in Giffords' honor after the shooting.
As one of her last acts as a member of Congress, Giffords will attend the State of the Union speech Tuesday evening at the Capitol.
Less than a month ago, The Arizona Republic, Arizona's largest newspaper, named Giffords its Arizonan of the Year for 2011.
"What happened to U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is well known," the state's largest newspaper wrote. "It has been humbling and inspiring to see her beat the odds every step of the way back. But it isn't just one person's story. Her hero's journey brought Arizonans together and provided a powerful model for how the state can continue its own journey."
As of today, the 41-year-old congresswoman has represented Southeastern Arizona in Congress for 1,844 days. Her 9,000-square mile district includes a 114-mile border with Mexico, significant parts of Tucson and Pima County, all of Cochise County and two key military installations: Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson and Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista.
She was proud that her district included Tombstone, the "town too tough to die."
After she joined Congress on Jan. 4, 2007, Giffords quickly established herself as a leading champion of border security, energy independence and the needs of military families and veterans.
Consistently ranked as one of the most centrist legislators in Congress, she has been a strong supporter of fiscal responsibility, bipartisanship and government accountability. She also has been an outspoken supporter of health care reform and economic fairness for poor and middle-class families.
In her first speech on the House floor, less than a week after taking office, Giffords called for an increased emphasis on border security. "For too long, Congress and Washington have failed to act and we must secure the border now," she said, striking a theme that she would repeat often throughout her tenure.
Following the shooting death of rancher Rob Krentz, Giffords led congressional efforts to increase funding for border security measures. She was the primary sponsor of legislation that resulted in a $600 million emergency appropriation that provided for more Border Patrol agents, technology to monitor illegal activity on the border, an increase in personnel for ICE, FBI, U.S. Marshalls and U.S. Attorneys and funding for the overworked federal courts in Arizona.
In her first floor speech five years ago, Giffords also talked about her vote for legislation requiring the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices for seniors and people with disabilities in the Medicare program -- another issue that she continued to focus on during her tenure.
When she first took office, Giffords vowed to establish the most effective constituent services operation in Congress. Giffords' constituent services representatives in Tucson and Sierra Vista have handled more than 12,000 cases over the past five years. Cases included a widow who was owed compensation by the Veterans Administration, veterans who did not receive their service medals, homeowners facing foreclosure and a constituent who was trapped in Egypt last year during a pro-democracy uprising.
Within the past few weeks, a constituent services representative in Giffords' Tucson District Office recovered more than $314,000 in compensation for a Vietnam veteran who has multiple medical problems because of his exposure to Agent Orange decades ago. It was the largest single recovery since Giffords took office.
Gabe Zimmerman, one of the first staff members Giffords' hired in 2007, was the driving force behind the constituent services operation. He was killed in the Jan. 8, 2011 shooting.
In the 111th Congress, Giffords served as chairwoman of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee.
Giffords also has been known as Congress' leading supporter of solar energy. In addition to numerous honors for her advocacy of renewable energy, she introduced the Solar Technology Roadmap Act to guide long-term federal solar research and development. This legislation became the foundation for the Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative.
She also introduced legislation to expand the use of solar energy in schools and introduced landmark legislation to dramatically overhaul the type and quantity of fuel used by the Department of Defense, the world's largest consumer of energy.
Using her position on the House Armed Services Committee, Giffords has been a consistent advocate for veterans' benefits and active-duty military personnel and their families. And since Giffords' brain injury, her staff has worked to improve treatment for veterans with traumatic brain injuries, including holding a town hall in Tucson last month on the topic.
On Jan. 8, 2011, Giffords was shot through the left side of her brain when a gunman opened fire as she met with constituents at a Congress On Your Corner event in Northwest Tucson. Six people were killed: 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green; Dorothy Morris; John Roll, chief federal judge for Arizona; Phyllis Schneck; Dorwan Stoddard; and Zimmerman. Twelve others, including Giffords' staff members Ron Barber and Pam Simon, were wounded.
Giffords initially was treated at University of Arizona Medical Center in Tucson. One year ago on Jan. 21, the congresswoman was transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital in Houston. She was released from TIRR in mid-June and since then, has continued a rigorous schedule of physical, occupational and speech therapy in Houston.
Although Giffords will step down from Congress later this week, the 8th District congressional offices in Washington, Tucson and Sierra Vista will remain open to help constituents until the new member of Congress takes office later this year.
Here is a complete transcript of the congresswoman's video message:
"Arizona is my home, always will be. A lot has happened over the past year. We cannot change that. But I know on the issues we fought for, we can change things for the better. Jobs, border security, veterans. We can do so much more by working together.
"I don't remember much from that horrible day, but I will never forget the trust you placed in me to be your voice. Thank you for your prayers and for giving me time to recover. I have more work to do on my recovery, so to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week.
"I'm getting better. Every day, my spirit is high. I will return and we will work together for Arizona and this great country. Thank you very much."