David Welna

David Welna is NPR's congressional correspondent.

Serving in this role since the final days of the Clinton administration and primarily following the Senate, Welna reports on many issues he covered earlier in his career reporting both inside and outside of the United States. In addition he's covered the September 11, 2001 attacks, the wars that followed, and the economic downturn and recession. Prior to this position, Welna covered the 2000 presidential election and the post-election vote count battle in Florida.

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 are putting pressures on small farmers, how foreign conflicts and economic crises affect people 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 mass exodus of Cubans who fled the island on rafts in 1994, the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, and the US 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, Welna 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 and distinction in Latin American Studies. He speaks fluent Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

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News
2:14 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

An Angry Hearing On The Hill For 'Cockamamie' Twitter-like Network

Originally published on Wed April 9, 2014 3:24 am

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy was incensed that he only learned about the creation of a Twitter-like network in Cuba through press accounts. He had the chance Tuesday to vent his frustration when USAID administrator Rajiv Shah appeared before Leahy's committee.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

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National Security
4:38 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Senate Committee Votes To Declassify CIA Interrogations Report

Originally published on Fri April 4, 2014 6:22 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

The Senate intelligence committee voted yesterday in favor of declassifying a huge report that's been kept under wraps for nearly a year and a half. It's the so-called torture report on the interrogation and secret detention program carried out by the CIA following the 9/11 attacks. NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Only a 450-page summary of the report and its 20 findings would actually be declassified. New Mexico Democratic Senator Martin Heinrich predicts a big impact.

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News
2:05 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

With $1B In Aid For Ukraine, Congress Puts Money Where Its Mouth Is

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 5:03 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. The House and the Senate both voted overwhelmingly today for aid to Ukraine and sanctions for Russia's annexation of Crimea. The bipartisan response to the crisis follows weeks of partisan wrangling. Differences between the two bills still have to be ironed out. NPR's David Welna is at the Capitol.

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Politics
2:56 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Showing Signs Of Age, Capitol Dome Gets A Face-Lift

The Capitol dome in Washington will undergo renovation this spring, a project that is estimated to take two years and cost nearly $60 million.
Jonathan Ernst Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 6:24 pm

When you think of Washington, D.C., what's the first image to pop up?

For many, it's likely the U.S. Capitol — or more specifically, the iconic white dome that crowns the Capitol.

"It is one of the most, if not the most, recognizable symbols across the globe," said Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers, whole job entails maintaining the Capitol dome.

As could be said of the Congress that meets below it, the century-and-a-half old dome has seen better days. It is literally cracking up — and Ayers is leading a project to restore it.

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News
2:16 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Out Of White House And Congress, Two Proposals To Change NSA Practices

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 5:28 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Public outrage over NSA surveillance programs that collect data about Americans is forcing some big change. Documents revealing the security agency's methods have been trickling out in the press for months, thanks to leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

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It's All Politics
5:44 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

With New Inquiry, Harry Reid Raises Stakes In Senate-CIA Clash

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid faces reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 11, following a caucus lunch.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 5:47 pm

When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared "I support Senator Feinstein unequivocally" the same day she thrashed the CIA on the Senate floor, the question of whether the pugilistic top congressional Democrat from Nevada would leap into that fight seemed less a matter of if than when.

A little more than a week later, Reid made his move.

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National Security
11:22 am
Sat March 15, 2014

Senate-CIA Clash Goes Behind Closed Doors

Sen. Dianne Feinstein speaks with reporters after alleging that the CIA broke federal law by secretly removing sensitive documents from computers used by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the panel tasked with congressional oversight of the CIA.
Win McNamee Getty Images

The dust is still settling on Capitol Hill after California Democrat Dianne Feinstein fired a verbal bazooka at the Central Intelligence Agency Tuesday morning from the Senate floor.

The Senate Intelligence Committee's chairwoman — normally a stalwart of Washington's spooks — essentially accused the spy agency of illegally and unconstitutionally spying on its congressional overseers.

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Politics
3:09 am
Thu March 13, 2014

Aid Package For Ukraine Moves Slowly Through Congress

Originally published on Thu March 13, 2014 5:44 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

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Politics
3:06 am
Fri March 7, 2014

House Backs Obama's Request To Back Loans For Ukraine

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 9:39 am

The crisis in Ukraine is galvanizing unusually swift bipartisan action on Capitol Hill. The GOP-led House voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to authorize a $1 billion loan guarantee for Ukraine.

National Security
2:14 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Hagel's On The Hill, Pushing For A Slimmer Military

Originally published on Wed March 5, 2014 6:42 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. We begin this hour on Capitol Hill, where the secretary of Defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs were grilled today by lawmakers. The Pentagon leaders appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee to defend the proposed cuts in military spending. The cuts are outlined in budget President Obama sent to Congress yesterday.

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Politics
4:03 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Rep. David Camp Releases Tax Overhaul Plan

Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., left, walks with House Energy and Commerce Committee Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich. to a Republican caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 10:08 am

In the three years Republican Rep. David Camp has wielded the gavel of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, overhauling the tax code has been his abiding ambition.

The last revamping of the tax code was 28 years ago, and facing the prospect of having to relinquish that gavel at the end of this year, Camp declared today the time has come to start the debate on a new tax code overhaul.

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Politics
3:34 am
Tue February 25, 2014

After 58 Years Of Service, John Dingell To Vacate House Seat

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 6:06 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Renee Montagne.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

I n 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus. "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and his Comets was a top hit on the music charts, and John Dingell became a member of Congress. Nearly six decades later, the Michigan Democrat, the longest-serving member of Congress is leaving. He announced his retirement yesterday.

Here's NPR's David Welna.

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Politics
4:12 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Boehner Fights Back Against Tea Party, Again

House Speaker John Boehner leaves a news conference on Capitol Hill earlier this month.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 5:58 pm

A high-stakes drama played out over the debt ceiling on Capitol Hill this week. It ended with President Obama getting exactly what he'd asked for — an extension of the Treasury's borrowing authority with no strings attached — and an even wider gulf between GOP congressional leaders and Tea Party-aligned conservatives.

Underlying the Republican rift was House Speaker John Boehner's determination to avoid another episode like last fall's government shutdown.

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Politics
3:56 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

House Passes 'Clean' Debt Limit Bill

A woman looks at the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 31 in Washington.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Tue February 11, 2014 6:00 pm

Tuesday saw a rarity in Congress these days: a "clean" bill.

The House passed one to raise the debt limit, a move that avoids a possible default later this month.

In the past, House Republicans have used this debate to extract concessions from President Obama and congressional Democrats.

But not this time. House Republicans demanded nothing in return. The House passed the no-strings-attached debt hike Tuesday evening — though just 28 Republicans voted with the Democratic minority to pass the extension, 221 votes to 201 votes.

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Politics
11:28 am
Tue February 11, 2014

House Sets Vote On Raising Debt Limit

House leaders have had weeks to come up with a plan to deal with the nation's debt limit. Now, the day before they want to leave town for a break, it appears they've essentially decided to throw in the towel. They plan to put a bill on the House floor raising the debt ceiling for a year without any conditions attached.

Politics
2:58 am
Tue February 11, 2014

House Has 6 Working Days Left To Raise Debt Ceiling

Originally published on Tue February 11, 2014 11:28 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The U.S. Treasury is now in its fourth day of resorting to what it calls extraordinary measures to ensure all the nation's bills get paid. Officials estimate they can keep doing that for only 16 more days without risking a default on the debt. But the House of Representatives has only six working days left to raise the debt ceiling, and this morning, House Republicans were back behind closed doors, gauging support for a plan to do that. NPR's David Welna as at the capital, and he joins us know with the latest.

Good morning.

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Politics
3:05 am
Fri February 7, 2014

GOP Still Looking At Pieces Of Debt Limit 'Puzzle'

Originally published on Fri February 7, 2014 1:40 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Today at the stroke of noon in Washington D. C. the U.S. Treasury statutory authority to borrow money will expire.

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Health Care
3:29 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

Obamacare Opponents Open New Front For Debate In 'Risk Corridors'

Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 8:23 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Here's another way congressional Democrats are using the Budget Office report in support of the Affordable Care Act. They're defending an obscure provision in the law that serves to backstop insurance companies participating in the health plan exchanges. And in a flip of party stereotypes, this has Democrats standing up for the insurance companies and Republicans clashing with big business.

NPR's David Welna explains.

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It's All Politics
3:11 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

After 3-Day Retreat, GOP Battle Plan Still Only An Outline

Speaker of the House John Boehner (right) speaks during the leadership press conference at the House Republican Issues Conference in Cambridge, Md., on Thursday. Friday's press conference, on the last day of the retreat, was canceled.
JIm Watson AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 6:19 pm

House Republicans headed back to Washington on Friday from a resort along the frozen waters of the Chesapeake Bay. They were there for a three-day retreat aimed at mapping out a legislative strategy for this midterm election year.

One of the most pressing issues they face is the need next month for Congress to raise the nation's debt limit. GOP lawmakers seem leery of another debt ceiling showdown, and their leaders are pushing to act on immigration this year.

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Politics
3:30 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Farm Bill Clears House, On Its Way To Senate

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 9:00 am

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The Republican-run House of Representatives accomplished a feat of across-the-aisle cooperation today. A minority of House Democrats joined a majority of Republicans to pass a five-year renewal of the Farm Bill. The bill had been mired in partisan disputes for nearly two years. The most divisive issue was the food stamp program. It is by far the Farm Bill's biggest expenditure, and Republicans wanted to shrink it. As NPR's David Welna reports, the bill that passed does include some cuts but they'll be much smaller than many had sought.

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Politics
2:52 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

House GOP Leaders Begin To Move On Immigration

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 4:55 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Another priority of the president's that's likely to come up tonight is an immigration overhaul. The Senate last year passed a comprehensive bipartisan bill that promise eventual citizenship for millions currently in the country without legal status. While House leaders don't appear ready to go that far, they do seem ready to start a conversation.

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It's All Politics
1:33 am
Fri January 24, 2014

8 Republicans And A Nunn Battle For Georgia's Open Senate Seat

The race for Georgia's U.S. Senate seat started to take shape Monday as Michelle Nunn, a Democrat, announced plans to run for her father's old seat, joining a crowded field of Republican contenders.
Kevin Wolf AP

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 11:12 am

Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss won't be seeking a third term in the U.S. Senate this year, and his decision to bow out has eight other Republicans, including three congressmen, scrambling for his seat.

Democrats, meanwhile, have their hopes pinned on the daughter of a well-known and widely admired former senator. It's turned a Senate race Republicans hoped would be a cakewalk into something far less predictable.

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Politics
1:05 am
Wed January 15, 2014

'Pretty Good' Budget Deal Looks Good Enough To Avoid Shutdown

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. A massive $1.1 trillion spending bill, aimed at funding the government until October, is getting generally positive reviews, including from House Republicans eager to avoid another shutdown crisis with elections looming.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 7:01 am

For the first time in years, the House of Representatives is expected to approve a massive new spending bill Wednesday that keeps federal agencies operating until a new fiscal year starts in October.

The so-called "omnibus" package of all 12 annual spending bills is a compromise; it has more money in it than what Congressional Republicans wanted, but less than what President Obama had asked for. There is some disappointment with the measure on both sides of the aisle, but this time nobody is talking about forcing another government shutdown.

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Politics
3:12 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Not Everyone's On Board With The Omnibus Bill

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 8:26 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The House of Representatives bought a little time today. It approved three additional days of funding for the federal government, which would otherwise run out of money tomorrow. It's just the latest sign that, unlike last fall, most lawmakers seem genuinely eager to avoid a government shutdown. House and Senate negotiators have agreed on a huge catchall spending bill, known as the omnibus.

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Politics
10:22 am
Sat January 11, 2014

The War Over Poverty: A Deep Divide On How To Help

Homeless women sit amid their belongings in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday. Democrats and Republicans say income inequality is a problem, but they disagree over a solution.
Frederic J. Brown AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon January 13, 2014 4:51 pm

All this week, Majority Leader Harry Reid declared over and over on the Senate floor that there's a downside to the recovering economy.

"It's true," he said. "The rich are getting a lot richer, and the poor are getting poorer."

That observation may not be surprising, coming from a Democrat. Less expected, perhaps, is a similar lament made the same day by the Senate's Republican leader, Mitch McConnell.

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Politics
4:42 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

McCain Lays Al-Qaida Surge In Iraq At Obama's Feet

Gunmen patrol during clashes with Iraqi security forces in Fallujah, on Jan. 5, 2014. Al-Qaida has been battling to take back both Ramadi and Fallujah in Anbar province in Iraq.
AP

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 8:29 pm

Forces allied with al-Qaida are battling to retake two major cities in Iraq's Sunni-dominated Anbar province: Ramadi, the capital of the province, and Fallujah, the city where U.S. troops prevailed after fighting two major battles.

There have been no American forces in Iraq since 2011, when President Obama ordered the last troops to leave. Now the man who lost the presidential race to Obama five years ago is pointing a finger at the president for al-Qaida's resurgence.

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Politics
2:59 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Senate OKs Yellen, To Take Up Jobless Benefits Tuesday

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 4:56 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Neither arctic conditions nor cancelled flights kept most of the Senate from returning to Washington after the holidays for last night's vote on the new chair of the Federal Reserve.

GREENE: All but 17 senators showed up, and most voted to confirm Janet Yellen. She will replace Ben Bernanke at the end of the month, the first woman to head the central bank in its 100-year history.

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Politics
2:27 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Senate Confirms Janet Yellen As Federal Reserve Chair

Originally published on Mon January 6, 2014 5:11 pm

The Senate returned from its two-week holiday break on Monday. Senators confirmed the nomination of Janet Yellen as chair of the Federal Reserve Board and delayed a vote on an extension of unemployment insurance.

Politics
9:58 am
Sun January 5, 2014

The Campaign For Jobless Benefits Begins In Congress

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., along with Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., is co-sponsoring the three-month extension of unemployment benefits up for a vote in Congress this week.
Win McNamee Getty Images

The Senate gets back to work Monday after a two-week holiday break. Just as Majority Leader Harry Reid promised, the first piece of legislation getting a vote will be a three-month extension of the long-term unemployment benefits that ran out a week ago for 1.3 million jobless Americans.

Though the Senate unemployment measure is bipartisan, it's not clear it has enough votes to beat a GOP filibuster. Regardless, Democrats are banging the drum on the issue as a midterm election year begins.

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Politics
2:52 am
Mon December 30, 2013

If The NAFTA Vote Were Held Today, How Would It Fare?

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 5:42 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. It's been 20 years since President Bill Clinton signed into law a trade pact that wiped out many of the commercial barriers between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The North American Free Trade Agreement was controversial. Although Congress in the end approved NAFTA, it divided lawmakers, and on both sides of the aisle.

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