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
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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Around the Nation
3:42 am
Fri July 19, 2013

Lawmakers Consider Retooling Voting Rights Act

Originally published on Fri July 19, 2013 4:00 am

Congress this week has convened its first hearings about the Voting Rights Act since the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of that law last month. The meetings offer some insights into what, if anything, lawmakers will do to restore the stricken section that enables the Justice Department to review in advance changes to state voting laws.

Politics
2:09 pm
Wed July 17, 2013

Senate Revisits Voting Rights Act Following Court Ruling

Originally published on Wed July 17, 2013 5:11 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.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has held the first congressional hearing on how to resurrect the Voting Rights Act. That's after the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the law last month.

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Around the Nation
2:42 am
Wed July 17, 2013

Paul, Cruz Back Bill Changing Military Sexual Assault System

Originally published on Wed July 17, 2013 4:46 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And support is growing in Congress for a bill that to allow military prosecutors to decide whether or not to try serious military crimes, including sexual assault. That would take the decision out of the hands of commanders, commanders who are in a position of overseeing the careers of both the victims and the accused. NPR's Ailsa Chang reports that two Republican senators and possible presidential hopefuls in 2016 are joining forces with Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

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NPR Story
2:17 pm
Mon July 15, 2013

Critics: Immigration Reform Takes Jobs Away From Black Workers

Originally published on Mon July 15, 2013 4:13 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Hundreds of people from across the country gathered outside the U.S. Capitol today to rally against the Senate's immigration bill. Their big worry: that it would grant amnesty to millions of undocumented immigrants and take jobs away from struggling citizens, especially struggling African-Americans, as NPR's Ailsa Chang reports.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: Patty Pitchford does not consider herself racist. She's a black woman from L.A. who says she has learned to accept outsiders.

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U.S.
3:32 pm
Tue July 9, 2013

Congress Still Squabbling Over Student Loan Rate Increase

People walk on the Columbia University campus in New York City on July 1, the day the federal student loan interest rate hike kicked in.
Mario Tama Getty Images

Originally published on Tue July 9, 2013 4:26 pm

The Senate is planning to vote Wednesday on a plan to bring interest rates on subsidized federal student loans back down to 3.4 percent for one more year. The rate doubled on July 1 when the chamber failed to agree on a plan.

While the Senate prepares to take the issue back up, college students are left staring at several competing proposals.

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Law
2:59 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Senate Stuck On Student Loan Bill As Rate Is Set To Double

Originally published on Thu June 27, 2013 3:44 pm

Student loan rates are set to double on Monday, with Congress not likely to take action before then. The debate now is on how to lower costs for students without needing annual stopgap bills. Such a measure would not pass until mid-July at the earliest and would have to be applied retroactively to undo the coming rate hike.

U.S.
12:57 am
Mon June 24, 2013

Why The AR-15 Is More Than Just A Gun

"We've always sold more guns when Democrats are in office than we ever sell when Republicans [are] in office," says Mitch May, the general manager at Clark Brothers Gun Shop in Warrenton, Va.
Ailsa Chang NPR

Originally published on Mon June 24, 2013 10:07 am

Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid insist that gun control legislation is not dead — they say they're strategizing on how to bring the issue back to the Senate floor.

Even if it does return, one proposal unlikely to survive is an assault weapons ban. Military-style assault rifles now form a nearly $1 billion industry supported by gun owners who spend thousands of dollars collecting these firearms.

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National Security
3:14 am
Wed June 19, 2013

Secret Surveillance Credited With Preventing Terror Acts

Originally published on Wed June 19, 2013 7:40 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The president's administration has plenty to occupy it here at home. The director of the National Security Agency was on Capitol Hill yesterday, defending the surveillance program that's received so much attention in recent in recent days. General Keith Alexander told the House Intelligence Committee that the NSA programs in question have stopped dozens of terrorist attacks, here and abroad. Here's NPR's Ailsa Chang.

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National Security
3:53 am
Thu June 13, 2013

NSA Head Reassures Senate That Surveillance Programs Are Legal

Originally published on Thu June 13, 2013 4:14 am

NSA Director Keith Alexander told a Senate panel that his agency's program did indeed protect American's privacy while gathering data on terrorist activity. Alexander told lawmakers he wants to declassify more details to reassure everyone the programs are legal and effective.

It's All Politics
3:26 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

What Did Congress Really Know About NSA Tracking?

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is among the lawmakers who say they were never briefed about the government's surveillance programs.
T.J. Kirkpatrick Getty Images

Originally published on Tue June 11, 2013 4:20 pm

If you're a member of Congress and you didn't know about the National Security Agency's phone records program before it was disclosed last week, President Obama has this to say to you: Where have you been?

"When it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program," Obama said to reporters last Friday.

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