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Ms. Giffords‘ husband is astronaut and Navy Capt. Mark E. Kelly, and he is training to be commander of a space shuttle mission in April.

Ms. Giffords, who is part of a group of conservative-leaning Democrats in Congress, just won a tough re-election bid in November.

This week, she joined her colleagues in being sworn in again in the House, and seemed touched when Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, gave her the honor of reading the First Amendment during the Republicans’ reading of the Constitution on the House floor on Thursday.

That amendment protects the rights of Americans peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government.

She also introduced a bill to cut the pay of members of Congress by 5 percent.

Her district covers the vast expanse of the southeastern corner of Arizona, and is home to several major military bases. It also includes a large stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border and some of the most active smuggling routes in the country.