David Welna

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.

Having previously covered Congress over a 13-year period starting in 2001, Welna reported extensively on matters related to national security. He covered the debates on Capitol Hill over authorizing the use of military force prior to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the expansion of government surveillance practices arising from Congress' approval of the USA Patriot Act. Welna also reported on congressional probes into the use of torture by U.S. officials interrogating terrorism suspects. He also traveled with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to Afghanistan on the Pentagon chief's first overseas trip in that post.

In mid-1998, after 15 years of reporting from abroad for NPR, Welna joined NPR's Chicago bureau. During that posting, he reported on a wide range of issues: changes in Midwestern agriculture that threaten the survival of small farms, the personal impact of foreign conflicts and economic crises in the heartland, and efforts to improve public education. His background in Latin America informed his coverage of the saga of Elian Gonzalez both in Miami and Cuba.

Welna first filed stories for NPR as a freelancer in 1982, based in Buenos Aires. From there, and subsequently from Rio de Janeiro, he covered events throughout South America. In 1995, Welna became the chief of NPR's Mexico bureau.

Additionally, he has reported for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, The Financial Times, and The Times of London. Welna's photography has appeared in Esquire, The New York Times, The Paris Review, and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Covering a wide range of stories in Latin America, Welna chronicled the wrenching 1985 trial of Argentina's former military leaders who presided over the disappearance of tens of thousands of suspected dissidents. In Brazil, he visited a town in Sao Paulo state called Americana where former slaveholders from America relocated after the Civil War. Welna covered the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, the mass exodus of Cubans who fled the island on rafts in 1994, the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, and the U.S. intervention in Haiti to restore Jean Bertrand Aristide to Haiti's presidency.

Welna was honored with the 2011 Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for Distinguished Reporting of Congress, given by the National Press Foundation. In 1995, he was awarded an Overseas Press Club award for his coverage of Haiti. During that same year he was chosen by the Latin American Studies Association to receive their annual award for distinguished coverage of Latin America. Welna was awarded a 1997 Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University. In 2002, Welna was elected by his colleagues to a two-year term as a member of the Executive Committee of the Congressional Radio-Television Correspondents' Galleries.

A native of Minnesota, Welna graduated magna cum laude from Carleton College in Northfield, MN, with a Bachelor of Arts degree and distinction in Latin American Studies. He was subsequently a Thomas J. Watson Foundation fellow. He speaks fluent Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

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Politics
3:48 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

To Fix Social Security, Some Democrats Want To Lift Wage Cap

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D- Mass., listens to testimony during a Banking Committee hearing on Nov. 12. In a Senate floor speech on Social Security last month, Warren said, "With some modest adjustments, we can keep the system solvent for many more years, and we could even increase benefits."
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 5:39 pm

For the past three years, there's been a shortfall in the payroll taxes collected for Social Security. And as more baby boomers join the ranks of the 57 million people already receiving benefits, that deficit is bound to keep growing.

At the same time, the overall share of wages being taxed for Social Security is shrinking as the higher wages that are exempt have soared. The Social Security Board of Trustees predicts a nearly $3 trillion trust fund built up over decades will vanish within 20 years.

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U.S.
6:42 am
Fri November 29, 2013

Tax Break For Mass-Transit Commutes May Soon Be Slashed

Commuters wait on the platform as a Metro-North train arrives in Bridgeport, Conn.
Craig Ruttle AP

Originally published on Fri November 29, 2013 1:57 pm

Unless Congress acts quickly, taking mass transit to work is about to get more expensive for some people.

For the past four years, public transportation users and people who drive their cars to work and pay for parking have been able set aside up to $245 a month in wages tax free if they're used for commuting costs or workplace parking.

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It's All Politics
4:35 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

With Nominees Stalled, Democrats Reprise Filibuster Threat

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (left) with Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley on Capitol Hill in July. Both senators favor curtailing the minority's right to filibuster judicial nominees.
Jose Luis Magana Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Wed November 20, 2013 5:11 pm

For the third time this year, the Democrats who run the Senate are threatening to change that chamber's rules on the Republican minority's most potent weapon: the filibuster. They say the GOP's obstruction of President Obama's nominations leaves them no other choice.

Democrats say that this time, they're ready to pull the trigger on what's known as "the nuclear option." Doing so would amount to altering the rules not with the traditional two-thirds majority but a simple majority of 51.

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It's All Politics
2:51 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

Senate Votes To Send A Message Ahead Of Next Year's Election

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks during a news conference as the Senate prepares to vote on a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation on Thursday.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 3:52 pm

Midterm elections are still a year off, but the scramble to gain a political edge at the polls is already well underway on Capitol Hill.

Bills are brought up and votes taken not so much in hopes they will prevail, but rather to send a political message. In the Senate, both parties are at it.

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Politics
2:02 am
Tue November 5, 2013

Senate Advances Employment Non-Discrimination Act

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 3:08 am

With a vote of 61-30, the Senate voted to move forward on legislation that would prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Monday's vote opens the floor to debate on the bill and the Senate is expected to schedule a full vote by week's end.

NPR Story
2:24 pm
Thu October 31, 2013

Why Have So Few African-Americans Been Elected To The Senate?

Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 4:01 pm

Former Newark Mayor Cory Booker was sworn in Thursday, making him only the fourth African-American elected by popular vote to the United States Senate, and only the second in the chamber currently. This is in contrast to the 41 blacks who represent House districts.

NPR Story
3:48 am
Wed October 30, 2013

Without Earmark 'Grease,' Some Say, Spending Bills Get Stuck

Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 3:24 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

While Congress tries to get to the bottom of what went wrong with the Affordable Care Act website, it's got other problems on its mind. Leading the list is the inability of lawmakers to carry out their most fundamental constitutional responsibility: appropriating the money needed to run the government in a timely fashion.

This month's shutdown was only the most recent fallout of the breakdown in appropriations. Some lawmakers say the Republican ban on earmarks nearly three years ago has only made things worse.

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Politics
2:38 am
Thu October 17, 2013

Budget Process Isn't Over. Are More Shutdowns Ahead?

Originally published on Thu October 17, 2013 8:23 am

By wide margins in both the House and the Senate, Congress voted Wednesday night to end a 16-day partial government shutdown. The measure also delays the debt ceiling deadline until early February. House and Senate Budget committees have until Dec. 13 to reconcile competing budgets.

Politics
1:23 am
Mon October 14, 2013

How The Debt Limit Became 'A Nuclear-Tipped Leverage Point'

Congress set a limit on how much debt the U.S. Treasury could accrue back in 1917.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed October 16, 2013 4:14 pm

Political battles over the debt limit have been around nearly as long as the law passed by Congress in 1917 that set a statutory limit for how much debt the Treasury could accrue.

Since then, Congress has had to increase that limit on more than 100 occasions — and 40 of those times, lawmakers have tried to tie strings to raising the debt ceiling. In the last few years, though, there's been a marked escalation in those demands.

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Around the Nation
2:53 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

Car Chase Ends On Capitol Hill, Shots Reported

Originally published on Fri October 4, 2013 9:38 am

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. This afternoon, a car chase through the heart of Washington D.C. ended with shots fired near the Capitol. Details are sketchy, but we know that around 2:00 this afternoon, authorities began pursuit of a suspect by car near the White House. That chase ended on Capitol Hill with members of Congress in their offices hearing shots fired outside.

Here's Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine, speaking minutes ago.

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It's All Politics
1:05 am
Thu October 3, 2013

Reid's Tough Tactics In Shutdown Drama Draw Notice

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pauses outside the West Wing of the White House after meeting Wednesday with President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Thu October 3, 2013 10:53 am

As the leader of Senate Democrats, Harry Reid has been in a lot of fights — but this one may be different, in that Reid has drawn a line.

Throughout the weeks leading up to the shutdown, through four votes in the Senate with not a single defection from the Democratic caucus, and once again after the meeting at the White House, Reid has rejected any of the changes in the Affordable Care Act that House Republicans have demanded as a condition for funding the federal government.

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Politics
2:35 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Senate More Than Likely To Keep Obamacare Intact

Originally published on Wed September 25, 2013 4:25 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning. Let's catch up on the Senate's fight over Obamacare. A handful of Republican senators say they support a plan to deny funding to the Affordable Care Act. They want to attach that to a larger measure designed to keep the rest of the government running and avoid a partial shutdown at the end of the month.

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It's All Politics
5:31 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

As Government Shutdown Looms, Benghazi Hearings Resume

Thomas Pickering (left), the chairman of the Benghazi Accountability Review Board, and retired Adm. Mike Mullen testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday.
Michael Reynolds EPA/Landov

Originally published on Thu September 19, 2013 6:19 pm

It was a day when most in Congress were obsessed with an increasingly likely government shutdown that would be of lawmakers' own making. But not the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The GOP-controlled panel held a marathon six-hour hearing on what South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy called the most important issue of all to the folks back home: the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead just over a year ago.

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It's All Politics
11:58 am
Thu September 12, 2013

Pro-Israel Lobby Finds Longtime Supporters Defect On Syria

Vice President Joe Biden, projected on screens, gestures as he addresses the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2013 Policy Conference in March.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Sun September 15, 2013 8:40 am

The Obama administration is getting assistance from outside allies also trying to sell Congress on authorizing a military strike against Syria. Among the most prominent: strong backers of Israel.

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It's All Politics
2:55 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

GOP Debate: Is Obamacare Fight Worth A Government Shutdown?

Originally published on Fri August 16, 2013 6:40 am

Congressional Republicans agree that the new federal health care program should be ended. But they are finding themselves bitterly divided over how.

They have tried dozens of times to repeal it. Now, some GOP lawmakers want to block all money for Obamacare in a stopgap spending bill that must be approved next month to prevent the government from shutting down on Oct. 1. But other Republicans say that won't work and may well backfire.

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Politics
3:10 am
Mon August 5, 2013

McConnell Squares Off With Rivals At Ky. Political Picnic

Originally published on Mon August 5, 2013 3:44 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Over the weekend the tiny town of Fancy Farm, Kentucky was the scene of a political brawl worthy of the Hatfields and McCoys. No one was run out of town, but Mitch O'Connell, the Senate Republican leader, who is asking Kentuckians for a sixth term, did get pretty roughed up - verbally. You'd hardly guess it all began as a church picnic.

NPR's David Welna was there.

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Politics
2:56 am
Sat July 20, 2013

After The Senate Filibuster Deal: Still 'Room For Bad Behavior'

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks Tuesday on Capitol Hill. After a compromise, Reid stepped back from a threat to strip the Senate GOP minority of its right to filibuster executive branch nominees.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Sat July 20, 2013 2:48 pm

It was the eve of a series of votes to end GOP filibusters of seven presidential appointees, and Democrats had vowed they would resort to the "nuclear option" and get rid of such filibusters altogether should any of those stalled nominees remain blocked.

All but two of the Senate's 100 members squeezed into the camera-free old chamber that the Senate used until just before the Civil War. Behind closed doors, they talked for more than three hours.

I buttonholed West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller as he stepped out of that Monday night meeting.

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Texas 2020
2:43 pm
Thu July 4, 2013

Ted Cruz And His Texas Electorate At Odds On Immigration

Originally published on Tue July 9, 2013 10:38 am

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. Happy 4th of July. And we begin the hour by taking the nation's political temperature on a couple of points. First, immigration, and how that issue is playing in a key border state. In our series, Texas 2020, we've been covering the implications of changing demographics. One of the rising political stars in Texas is the son of a foreign-born father and American mother.

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It's All Politics
1:07 am
Thu July 4, 2013

Immigration Debate In Congress Riles Up Texas Republicans

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas delivers remarks during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting to work on the immigration legislation in May.
Michael Reynolds EPA/Landov

Originally published on Thu July 4, 2013 7:48 am

All this week, NPR is taking a look at the demographic shifts that could shake up Texas politics in the coming years — and what that could mean for the rest of the country.

Within a decade, Hispanics are bound to become the largest ethnic group in Texas. These often Democratic-leaning Texans could reshape the state's GOP-dominated political landscape.

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It's All Politics
1:01 am
Thu June 20, 2013

How Ted Cruz's Father Shaped His Views On Immigration

Ted Cruz celebrates his victory in the Texas Senate race with his father, Rafael, and daughter Caroline on Nov. 6, 2012, in Houston.
David J. Phillip AP

As the Senate debates a massive overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, one of its newest members has emerged as a leading opponent of the bill's most controversial feature: a path to citizenship for millions living in the country unlawfully.

The views of that freshman senator — Texas Republican Ted Cruz — have been significantly colored by the saga of his own father, an immigrant from Cuba.

"In my opinion, if we allow those who are here illegally to be put on a path to citizenship, that is incredibly unfair to those who follow the rules," Cruz has said.

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Politics
4:49 am
Fri June 14, 2013

Religious Conservatives Focus On Midterm Elections

Originally published on Tue June 25, 2013 1:50 pm

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

They're calling it the Road to Majority. It's the third annual meeting of conservative religious activists with the Faith and Freedom Coalition. The conference is underway now in Washington, D.C. Its stated aim: To boost the conservative vote for next year's midterm election.

As NPR's David Welna reports, it's also a platform for Republican stars eyeing the White House in 2016.

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It's All Politics
3:21 am
Sun June 2, 2013

Ted Cruz: 'The New Voice' Of The GOP?

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, accompanied by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., speaks during a news conference with Tea Party leaders on May 16. Bachmann, chairwoman of the Tea Party Caucus, announced this week she won't seek re-election. Meanwhile, Cruz's fortunes continue to soar.
Molly Riley AP

Originally published on Sun June 2, 2013 8:56 am

On the same day this week that House Tea Party Caucus co-founder Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., announced she won't seek re-election, the fortunes of another Tea Party favorite continued to soar.

Freshman GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas headlined a big fundraiser thrown by the New York Republican Party in the heart of Manhattan. More than 600 Republicans gathered to write checks to their struggling party, which has no statewide officeholders.

But it was not exactly a welcoming committee that awaited Cruz outside the Grand Hyatt hotel.

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It's All Politics
12:56 am
Wed May 29, 2013

Immigration Measure Faces Test In Senate, Rival Bill In House

A bill proposed by the Senate's Gang of Eight (from left, Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Bob Menendez, D-N.J.; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; and Michael Bennet, D-Colo.) has passed out of committee and is headed for the full Senate. But the fate of the issue in the House is less clear.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 29, 2013 8:47 am

Members of Congress are back in their home states this week for a Memorial Day recess. It's a chance to talk with constituents about what could become the year's biggest legislative story: the push on Capitol Hill to fix what Democrats and Republicans alike agree is a broken immigration system.

A bill proposed by the Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group of senators, to revamp the nation's immigration rules passed out of committee last week and will soon be brought before the Democratic-led Senate. Less clear, though, is where the issue is headed in the GOP-controlled House.

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It's All Politics
3:44 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

Fears Of Killing Immigration Bill Doomed Same-Sex Amendment

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. (center), listens to testimony during a hearing on the immigration bill on April 22.
Andrew Harnik The Washington Times/Landov

Originally published on Wed May 22, 2013 4:40 pm

After five marathon sessions debating 150 proposed amendments, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a landmark rewriting of the nation's immigration laws this week — and the bill emerged largely intact.

Three Republicans voted with the panel's 10 Democrats on Tuesday night to forward the bill to the full Senate. That strong showing followed a wrenching choice for Democrats on the committee: whether to risk shattering support for the bill by amending it to recognize equal rights for same-sex couples.

How It Played Out

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It's All Politics
3:13 am
Sat May 18, 2013

Immigration Bill Chugs Along, But Some See Deal-Breakers

The Senate Judiciary Committee meets to work on immigration legislation on May 9.
Michael Reynolds EPA/Landov

Originally published on Sat May 18, 2013 5:23 am

It's been a long slog already for the bipartisan immigration overhaul proposed by the Senate's Gang of Eight.

The legislation has been the target of more than 300 amendments during days of debate and votes by the Senate Judiciary Committee. But while the bill has largely held its own so far, its prospects for getting through Congress remain uncertain.

In Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy's view, the immigration overhaul is "moving very well."

"It's moving a lot faster than people said it would," says Leahy, a Vermont Democrat.

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Politics
6:10 am
Fri May 10, 2013

Immigration Bill Remains Largely Intact After 1st Hearing

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Let's get an update now on one of this year's major policy debates. There is an immigration bill under consideration. The law, if passed, has the potential to be a major success story for President Obama and for the bipartisan group of lawmakers who drafted it. Opponents of the bill have major concerns about how it treats people who came to the U.S. illegally, and also about how much the law would cost.

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It's All Politics
4:12 pm
Tue May 7, 2013

Congressional Hearings Put Renewed Focus On Benghazi Attack

Originally published on Tue May 7, 2013 8:56 pm

It has been nearly eight months since attacks on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

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NPR Story
2:29 am
Fri May 3, 2013

Gun Background Vote Causes Heat At Home For N.H. Sen. Ayotte

Originally published on Fri May 3, 2013 10:14 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

After any contentious debate in Washington, it's often interesting to see how a lawmaker is welcomed home, depending on how he or she voted. Some of the senators who voted down bipartisan gun control legislation last month are taking heat in the aftermath of December's mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the state of Connecticut. The bill would have expanded background checks, and the only New England senator who opposed it was New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte. NPR's David Welna traveled to her state and sent this report.

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U.S.
9:19 am
Tue April 30, 2013

Obama Answers Questions On Syria, Guantanamo, More

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 1:27 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Let's talk about President Obama's news conference this morning on the 100th day of his second term. NPR's David Welna has been listening in this morning. Hi, David.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: The president was immediately asked about the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

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Politics
3:46 am
Tue April 23, 2013

Boston Case Casts Shadow Over Senate Immigration Hearing

The Senate Judiciary Committee turned its attention back to the immigration overhaul proposal Monday, even as opponents began to use the Boston bombers' journey to the United States as a cautionary tale.

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