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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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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Politics
1:59 am
Thu September 19, 2013

Sen. McConnell In No-Win Situation On Obamacare

Originally published on Thu September 19, 2013 7:44 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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Politics
4:04 pm
Fri September 13, 2013

In Highest-Profile Role Yet, Kerry's Legacy Hangs On Syria

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. The week began with President Obama seeking congressional approval for military action. Now, it is ending with talks in Geneva aimed at a diplomatic solution. In this part of the program, the politics of the crisis in Syria. We'll talk to our regular weekly commentators and we'll start with a report on the man leading the U.S. diplomatic effort, Secretary of State John Kerry.

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It's All Politics
11:02 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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Middle East
3:18 am
Thu September 12, 2013

Backers Of Israel Press For Strikes On Syria

Originally published on Sun September 15, 2013 8:43 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, those who favor U.S. military intervention in Syria include backers of Israel. One of them is Republican campaign contributor Sheldon Adelson. Another is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC.

NPR's David Welna reports on their lobbying efforts.

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Law
3:03 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

It Will Be Up To Congress To Change Automatic Sentencing

Originally published on Fri August 16, 2013 4:22 pm

The Justice Department has called for prison sentencing reform — but it's really Congress that would have to carry it out. The time may be right: Crime is down, and even conservatives favor sentencing reform to save money.

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
2:24 pm
Fri August 9, 2013

Texas Congressman Pulled In Two Directions Over Immigration

Originally published on Fri August 9, 2013 3:45 pm

Second term GOP congressman Blake Farenthold is being targeted during Congress' summer recess by advocates of the Senate's immigration bill. Activists are organizing petitions and a demonstration at Farenthold's "open house" at his Corpus Christi office. And opponents are fighting back.

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
3:27 am
Thu July 25, 2013

Another Senate Battle Looms Over Judicial Nominees

Originally published on Thu July 25, 2013 5:58 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

You could say another blockbuster battle is shaping up on Capitol Hill - over nominations. This one does not concern President Obama's executive branch appointments. That fight got settled at the 11th hour last week. This dispute is over judicial nominations, specifically over Obama's bid to fill three vacancies on the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. It's widely considered the nation's second most important court.

Yesterday, Republicans argued the court has enough judges already. NPR's David Welna reports.

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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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Politics
2:42 am
Wed July 17, 2013

Senate Fails To Detonate 'Nuclear Option'

Originally published on Wed July 17, 2013 3:08 am

Democrats had been preparing to change Senate rules on filibusters to push through President Obama's nominations to executive branch positions. Republicans agreed to allow votes on five nominations, and Democrats agreed to replace two particularly contentious names with others.

Politics
3:03 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

Senate Democrats Back Off 'Nuclear Option' To End Filibusters

Originally published on Tue July 16, 2013 6:00 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 went to the brink of the so-called nuclear option but then, today, dialed it back. Senators struck a last minute deal in their fight over President Obama's nominations. Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid had threatened a rules change. It would've stripped the Republican minority of their ability to filibuster executive branch nominations. The deal reached this morning diffuses that threat, at least for now.

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Politics
3:06 am
Tue July 16, 2013

Majority Leader Reid Moves Senate Closer To 'Nuclear Option'

Originally published on Tue July 16, 2013 4:22 am

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is preparing to push through contentious changes to filibuster rules, if Republicans do not agree to approve seven presidential nominations on Tuesday. Reid convened a closed meeting of all 100 senators Monday night to hash out the arguments ahead of the deadline.

Politics
3:13 am
Fri July 12, 2013

Senate Democrats Fed Up With Filibusters On Nominations

Originally published on Fri July 12, 2013 3:29 am

Senate Democrats are once again threatening a rules change to allow President Obama to win approval for his executive branch appointments on a simple majority vote. Republicans complain that this strike against the filibuster is both unfair and a bad precedent.

Politics
2:53 pm
Thu July 11, 2013

'Nuclear Option' Would End Filibusters For Appointments

Originally published on Thu July 11, 2013 3:55 pm

Senate Democrats appear so fed up enough by Republicans blocking President Obama's appointments that they are preparing to change Senate rules. The so-called "nuclear option" would end the use of the filibuster when it comes to appointments, dramatically diminishing the power of the minority party in the chamber.

Politics
3:43 am
Thu July 11, 2013

House GOP Airs Their Differences Over Immigration Bill

Originally published on Thu July 11, 2013 10:13 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.

The massive immigration bill passed in the Senate with bipartisan support is now facing a challenge in the House. The Republican speaker has served notice that he will not put any bill to a vote that doesn't have the support of a majority of Republicans. And yesterday, almost every House Republican crowded into a closed-door meeting in the basement of the Capitol to discuss the issue.

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Political Crisis In Egypt
2:54 pm
Tue July 9, 2013

A Coup Or Not? Semantics Could Affect Us Aid To Egypt

Originally published on Tue July 9, 2013 4:00 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In Washington on Capitol Hill, there are varying reactions to the events in Egypt. Congress was on vacation last week when Mohammed Morsi was ousted from power. Now, they're back and confronted with a big question about what happened in Cairo. Will they declare it a military coup? If they do, U.S. law would require all military aide to Egypt to be suspended. As NPR's David Welna reports, there's little consensus about whether that assistance should be cut off.

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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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Politics
3:37 am
Fri June 28, 2013

Senate-Passed Immigration Bill Faces Tough Road In The House

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 5:13 am

The Senate passed a sweeping immigration overhaul bill Thursday with bipartisan support. The legislation, passed by a vote of 68 to 32, would put millions in the country illegally on a path to citizenship and vastly expand border security.

Law
2:59 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Senate Passes Immigration Reform Bill

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

The Senate gave final approval to a massive immigration overhaul that spends billions on border security, increases the number of legal immigrants and also creates a path to citizenship for the 11 million people who entered illegally.

Law
4:05 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

High Court Strikes Down Central Tenet Of Voting Rights Act

In striking down a key part of the Voting Rights Act, the Supreme Court specifically said that Congress could approve a new, constitutionally sound formula to determine what jurisdictions need federal oversight. But is Congress likely to do so?

Politics
2:46 am
Tue June 25, 2013

Revamped Immigration Bill Appears Headed For Passage

Originally published on Tue June 25, 2013 9:10 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

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Politics
4:10 pm
Mon June 24, 2013

Border Security Vote A Barometer For Immigration Bill's Chances

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

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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
3:22 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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Law
4:20 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

Immigration Reform Bill Crosses First Hurdle In Senate

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

The most ambitious and potentially historic bill that Congress may see this term is now being debated in the full Senate. It's the bill to revamp immigration laws and it's a high priority of President Obama's. He's repeatedly pushed back at Republicans who insist on more border security. And today, the president took the time to speak about it again, in advance of the Senate debate.

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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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