By Niall Stanage - 12/19/11 10:15 AM EST
The central character in a story at once horrific and inspiring, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was almost killed in January, yet rallied so impressively in the months afterward that she was able to return, albeit briefly, to cast a vote on Capitol Hill.
Giffords was shot in the head during what should have been a routine appearance with constituents near Tucson, Ariz. on January 8. Six people died in the attack, for which the sole suspect is 23-year-old Jared Loughner.
The Giffords shooting also seemed to diminish the standing of former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska). An earlier decision by Palin to publish a map with crosshairs over the districts of “targeted” Democrats, including Giffords, in the run-up to the 2010 midterm elections, attracted much unfavorable comment.
Giffords returned to Congress for the first time in early August, casting a vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling.
Here are The Hill’s choices for the 10 most important political stories of the year: