Ailsa Chang

Ailsa Chang is a Congressional reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.

Since joining NPR in September 2012, Chang has covered the first major gun control legislation to reach Capitol Hill in two decades, recovery efforts after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy and a multitude of law enforcement issues, including reforms by the overstretched and underfunded police department in Camden, NJ.

Chang spent six years as a lawyer before becoming a journalist. Prior to coming to NPR, Chang was an investigative reporter at NPR member station WNYC from 2009 to 2012 in New York City where she covered criminal justice and other legal issues.

Chang has received numerous national awards for her investigative reporting. In 2012, she was honored with the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton for her two-part investigative series on the New York City Police Department's "stop-and-frisk" policy and allegations of unlawful marijuana arrests by officers. The reports also earned honors from Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Society of Professional Journalists.

She was also the recipient of the Daniel Schorr Journalism Award, a National Headliner Award, and an honor from Investigative Reporters and Editors for her investigation on how Detroit's broken public defender system leaves lawyers with insufficient resources to effectively represent their clients.

In 2011, the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters Association named Chang as the winner of the Art Athens Award for General Excellence in Individual Reporting for radio.

Chang graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University where she received her bachelor's degree. She earned a law degree with distinction from Stanford Law School and has two masters degrees, one in media law from Oxford University where she was a Fulbright Scholar and one in journalism from Columbia University.

She also served as a law clerk on the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in the chambers of Judge John T. Noonan, Jr.

Chang was a Kroc fellow at NPR from 2008 to 2009. She has also been a reporter and producer for NPR member station KQED in San Francisco.

Chang grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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It's All Politics
12:03 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

When Lobbyists Literally Write The Bill

Lobbyists for Citigroup, one of the country's largest banks, offered lawmakers draft language for a bill that was obtained by New York Times and Mother Jones reporters. And 70 of the 85 lines in the final House bill reflected Citigroup's recommendations.
Mark Lennihan AP

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

It's taken for granted that lobbyists influence legislation. But perhaps less obvious is that they often write the actual bills — even word for word.

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Politics
3:01 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Senate Committee Grills Sebelius Over Health Law

Originally published on Wed November 6, 2013 4:21 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block in Washington, D.C.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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NPR Story
3:11 am
Fri November 1, 2013

Obama's Nominations Blocked Again In Senate

Originally published on Fri November 1, 2013 4:46 am

Senate Republicans have once again blocked President Obama's nominees. Despite a deal in July to let several of the president's picks go through, the rancor has returned with a fresh batch of appointments. Two nominations failed within less than an hour on Thursday, and Democrats may once again threaten to change Senate rules so Republicans can't easily derail another nomination.

Politics
3:07 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

Sebelius: Hold Me Accountable For HealthCare.gov Debacle

Originally published on Wed October 30, 2013 4:00 pm

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified on the Affordable Care Act before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. She began with an apology for the plan's troubled rollout — but then defended the law and rejected calls to extend the enrollment deadline.

It's All Politics
2:49 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

Health Site Glitches Have At-Risk Democrats Favoring Delay

Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska is one of five Democrats in the Senate calling for a delay in the enrollment deadline for the Affordable Care Act. He says consumers shouldn't be punished for the technical problems that have plagued the health law's website.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Originally published on Tue October 29, 2013 5:57 pm

The messy rollout of the online exchanges under the Affordable Care Act has provided fodder for Republicans determined to make Obamacare an issue in the 2014 elections.

A handful of Democratic incumbents in battleground states are among senators now calling for an extension of the open enrollment period, which could be a way to curry favor in relatively conservative states.

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Politics
2:23 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

Obamacare Contractors Head To Capitol Hill For House Hearing

Originally published on Thu October 24, 2013 4:25 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

On Capitol Hill, it was a day of tough questions and finger-pointing. Lawmakers got their first chance to grill government contractors over the botched rollout of the new government health insurance website. It was the first in a series of hearings. And as NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle directed their anger at the contractors and at each other.

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Politics
3:10 am
Thu October 24, 2013

Hearings On Obamacare Rollout Kick Off On Capitol Hill

Originally published on Thu October 24, 2013 6:07 am

The first of what is likely to be many congressional hearings on the Affordable Care Act rollout happens Thursday. After more than three weeks, consumers trying out the new health care exchanges have complained of delays, inaccurate information and other computer problems. House Republicans are determined to shine a spotlight on the bungles.

Politics
2:38 am
Thu October 17, 2013

Defeat Isn't Easy For Conservative Republicans To Admit

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

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

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Politics
3:03 am
Tue October 15, 2013

House Waits For Details On Senate Bipartisan Proposal

With the debt ceiling deadline looming just two days away, Senate leaders say they're close to a deal that would reopen the government and avert default. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have been leading bipartisan talks on a way out of the deadlock. Even if a bipartisan agreement clears the Senate, it will likely be a hard sell to House Republicans.

Politics
2:51 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

More Negotiations, Still No Deal, On Shutdown, Debt Ceiling

Originally published on Mon October 14, 2013 4:19 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. Both the House and the Senate were in session today as the country closes in on the debt ceiling deadline. If Congress doesn't raise the debt limit before Thursday, the White House says the country will likely begin defaulting on its obligations. President Obama postponed a meeting with congressional leaders this afternoon.

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It's All Politics
3:41 am
Sun October 13, 2013

Senate Gets A Dose Of Scolding With Its Morning Prayer

Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black has been using his morning prayer to express his displeasure with political gridlock.
Drew Angerer AP

Originally published on Sun October 13, 2013 1:21 pm

It's easy to tune out when the Senate goes through its morning rituals. The president pro tem calls the chamber to order; there's the Pledge of Allegiance. One morning could sound like any other.

Except for the past two weeks. Barry C. Black, the Senate chaplain, has been using his morning prayers to say exactly what he thinks is wrong with Washington lawmakers: "Remove from them that stubborn pride, which imagines itself to be above and beyond criticism."

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Politics
2:02 am
Fri October 11, 2013

In History, House Speaker Has Never Been Removed At Midterm

Originally published on Fri October 11, 2013 3:19 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

There's been a lot of speculation about whether John Boehner could lose his job as speaker of the House if he doesn't placate the Republican's vocal Tea Party faction. So far there's been no attempt to oust Boehner.

And as NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, it would actually be quite hard to kick him out of the job in the middle of a congressional term.

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Politics
2:44 am
Thu October 10, 2013

Some Republicans Say Debt Limit Fuss Is A Lot Of Hype

Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., says it's "absolutely not true" to suggest that the U.S. can't pay its debts without raising the debt ceiling.
David Goldman AP

Originally published on Thu October 10, 2013 3:51 pm

For weeks, economists and bankers have been warning that there will be catastrophic consequences if Congress fails raise the nation's borrowing limit.

They say it will mean the nation will default on its debt, which could rock U.S. and global markets. The Treasury has warned that it will exhaust the "extraordinary measures" it has been using to keep paying the nation's bills by Oct. 17.

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Politics
4:40 am
Sat October 5, 2013

What Furlough? GOP Lawmakers Choose How Much Burden To Bear

A seagull walks on the edge of the reflecting pool near the Capitol on Friday.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Sat October 5, 2013 10:20 am

As the government shutdown enters its fifth day, House Republicans and Senate Democrats continue to spar over who's being more unreasonable in this fight.

GOP members now find themselves on the defensive, as they face questions about forgoing pay and forgoing staff during the widespread furloughs.

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Politics
3:03 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

Government Stays Closed As Spending Standoff Drags On

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

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now we're going to sort through the various interpretations of what is or isn't going on to resolve the government shutdown with NPR's congressional reporter Ailsa Chang. Hi there, Ailsa.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: Hi there.

CORNISH: So we heard the congresswoman mention these various bills the House is pushing to fund different popular departments of the government. But at the same time, Senate Democrats are saying no to a partial government reopening. So how are they justifying that position?

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Politics
3:21 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

Hill Workers' Health Perk A Sticking Point In Spending Fight

Originally published on Tue October 1, 2013 4:38 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Among the things House Republicans are asking for in the ongoing spending battle is an elimination of health benefits for members of Congress and their staff. As the law now stands, congressional staff are required to buy their health insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchanges and the federal government will help pay for their plans.

House Republicans say that kind of assistance amounts to a special subsidy. But as NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, taking away the health benefit would amount to a large pay cut.

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Politics
2:42 am
Mon September 30, 2013

Clock Keeps Ticking Toward Government Shutdown

Originally published on Mon September 30, 2013 5:44 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

The brinksmanship is familiar, but nobody quite knows how the fight over a government shutdown will end.

GREENE: Congress has to pass a bill by midnight to keep the government in full operation. House Republicans demanded that all funds be denied to Obamacare in exchange for keeping the government running 45 days. The Senate overwhelmingly said no.

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Politics
1:43 am
Sat September 28, 2013

With Government Shutdown Looming, All Eyes Turn To House GOP

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, center, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., left, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, express frustration on Friday after the Senate passed a bill to fund the government, but stripped it of language crafted by House Republicans to defund Obamacare.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Sat September 28, 2013 1:21 pm

As expected, the Senate passed a bill Friday to keep the government funded through mid-November — without stripping any funding away from the president's health care law.

Now the action returns to the House, where Republicans earlier in the week tied the measure to defunding the Affordable Care Act. With the threat of a shutdown looming three days away, the question is now, what will the House do?

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It's All Politics
3:44 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Republican Tactics Slow Down Obamacare Prep

An online course for Affordable Care Act "navigators" in Florida.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu September 26, 2013 5:23 pm

As Republicans try to figure out how to defund President Obama's health care law, some members of the party are attacking Obamacare on other fronts, too.

One House committee is investigating groups that were contracted to educate people about how to enroll, and the tactics are slowing down preparation for the rollout of the health care exchanges scheduled next Tuesday.

Investigating The "Navigators"

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Politics
3:52 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

Obamacare Funding Fight Leaves Senate Republicans Split

A Tea Party attempt to defund Obamacare has the Senate moving in slow motion toward a bill to fund the government beyond Sept. 30. Today, Senate Republicans met in a closed-door strategy session, where a number of them were expected to register their displeasure with the defund plan and its chief proponent, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Politics
2:47 am
Tue September 24, 2013

Sen. Cruz Battles To Regain Trust Of GOP House Members

Originally published on Tue September 24, 2013 7:13 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And President Obama is also paying close attention to what's unfolding on Capitol Hill this week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to move forward yesterday on a bill to keep the government running past October 1st.

(SOUNDBITE OF SENATE SESSION)

SEN. HARRY REID: I ask unanimous consent the Senate proceed to Executive Session to consider nominee number...

SEN. TED CRUZ: Mr. President.

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Politics
3:32 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

Republicans Push Back On Obama's D.C. Court Nominees

President Obama nominates Robert Wilkins, Patricia Millett and Nina Pillard to fill the remaining vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on June 4.
Jim Watson AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu September 19, 2013 5:07 pm

If President Obama has his way, he will get to fill three more of the 11 slots on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the second most powerful court in the country. Obama already has filled one vacancy with Sri Srinivasan, who was confirmed back in May.

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved another nominee for the D.C. Circuit, law professor Cornelia "Nina" Pillard.

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Middle East
4:10 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

Military Strike In Syria Faces Uphill Battle In The House

The Senate returns from its month-long recess a few days early on Friday, but only briefly, for the sole purpose of bringing to the floor the Syria resolution. But a Senate vote on the proposal is still a week away, with the House not likely to act until the Senate has finished.

Middle East
2:36 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Senate Committee Votes To Authorize Strikes On Syria

Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 3:27 pm

Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee spent Wednesday scrambling to find language authorizing military strikes on Syria that was acceptable to both those wanting a stronger response and those hoping to limit U.S. involvement.

Politics
3:11 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Senators Rand Paul And John McCain Differ On Syria Strikes

Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 4:42 am

Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and John McCain of Arizona approach the question of military strikes on Syria from opposite wings of the Republican Party. Paul from the isolationist wing and McCain from the traditional, more hawkish wing. Their disagreement played out in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, and serves as a preview for the far more consequential version of this debate among House Republicans.

Politics
1:31 am
Mon September 2, 2013

Syria Resolution Could Be A Hard Sell On Capitol Hill

From left, Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., Rep. Robert Scott, D-Va., and Rep. Brad Schneider, D- ll., walk to a closed members-only briefing on Syria on Sunday.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Mon September 2, 2013 4:41 pm

Twenty-four hours after President Obama announced on Saturday that he'll wait for congressional authorization before launching strikes on Syria; members of Congress attended a classified briefing at the Capitol.

For days, most of the discontent among members of Congress has been about not being included in the deliberations on Syria, about not getting the chance to vote. Now that they've gotten their way, each member of Congress will have to go on the record.

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It's All Politics
2:31 pm
Wed August 28, 2013

Many U.S. Lawmakers Want A Say On Taking Action In Syria

Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., has gotten dozens of House members to sign on to a letter demanding that President Obama ask for the official blessing of Congress before attacking Syria.
Steve Helber AP

Originally published on Wed August 28, 2013 5:44 pm

The Obama administration appears poised to attack Syria after concluding Bashar Assad's government used chemical weapons, but many members of Congress say they haven't been briefed enough about why military action is warranted.

Opinions about Syria are all over the map, with many lawmakers saying the president cannot proceed without first getting authorization from Congress.

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Politics
4:01 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

In Rural N.C., New Voter ID Law Awakens Some Old Fears

Opponents of North Carolina's new voter ID legislation wear tape over their mouths while sitting in the gallery of the House chamber of the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh, N.C., on April 24, where lawmakers debated new voter laws. On Monday, Gov. Pat McCrory signed a new law that requires a state-approved photo ID to vote and cuts early-voting opportunities.
Gerry Broome AP

Originally published on Fri August 16, 2013 6:51 pm

This week, North Carolina's governor signed a new law requiring a state-approved photo ID to cast a vote in a polling place and shortening the period for early voting. The move comes just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which had required large parts of the state to get federal approval before changing voting laws.

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Politics
3:18 am
Thu August 1, 2013

Congress Sends Student Loan Bill To Obama

Originally published on Fri August 2, 2013 4:01 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

After a long political fight, Congress has passed a compromise on student loans. The bill is now waiting for President's Obama signature, just in time for students entering classes this fall.

As NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, the legislation will lower student interest rates in the short term, but those rates are expected to rise.

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Education
2:45 pm
Wed July 24, 2013

Senate Passes Student Loan Legislation To Lower Interest Rates

Originally published on Thu July 25, 2013 7:31 am

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

After a long wait, the Senate has finally passed student loan legislation. It would restore lower interest rates for undergraduates. Many of them saw their rates double on July 1st when the Senate missed its deadline.

As NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, the new measure closely resembles both what the president wanted and what the House has already passed.

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