The Washington Times - January 22, 2012, 06:39PM

Reacting to Rep. Gabby Giffords’ Sunday announcement that she plans to resign from Congress this week, President Obama thanked her for her service and said she embodies the “best of what public service should be.”

“She’s universally admired for qualities that transcend party or ideology — a dedication to fairness, a willingness to listen to different ideas, and a tireless commitment to the work of perfecting our union,” he said in statement released late Sunday afternoon.

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Those qualities are the reason the people up Arizona elected Ms. Giffords, and her commitment to putting the needs of her constituents first is the reason she made the tough decision to step down from Congress, Mr. Obama said.

“Over the last year, Gabby and her husband Mark have taught us the true meaning of hope in the face of despair, determination in the face of incredible odds, and now — even after she’s come so far — Gabby shows us what it means to be selfless as well.” he continued. “Gabby’s cheerful presence will be missed in Washington. But she will remain an inspiration to all whose lives she touched — myself included. And I’m confident that we haven’t seen the last of this extraordinary American.”

Ms. Giffords announced her departure without warning on a video posted Sunday on her Facebook page.

“I don’t remember much from that horrible day, but I will never forget the trust you placed in me to be your voice,” the Democratic lawmaker said in the video.

“I’m getting better. Every day my spirit is high,” she said. “I have more work to do on my recovery. So to do what’s best for Arizona, I will step down this week.”

Ms. Giffords suffered a debilitating wound to the head during the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting spree in a Tucson parking lot that left six dead and 11 people other than Ms. Giffords wounded. Suspect Jared Lee Loughner remains in custody awaiting trial.

Democrats have been reluctant to suggest names to run for the seat out of deference to Ms. Giffords. But political observers continue to look to Ms. Giffords’ husband, astronaut Mark Kelly. Mr. Kelly has has repeatedly said he’s not interested in the seat and is focused on Ms. Giffords’ recovery.