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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Politics
1:43 am
Tue February 12, 2013

Sen. Rubio's Response Gives GOP A Chance To Woo Hispanics

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a fundraiser in Altoona, Iowa, on Nov. 17. He is delivering the GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Charlie Neibergall AP

Originally published on Tue February 12, 2013 6:44 am

Republican leaders have tapped Marco Rubio, a 41-year-old Cuban-American senator from Florida, to deliver the official GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night.

It's a chance for a party that has fared badly with both young and Hispanic voters to showcase a fast-rising, youthful Latino with a new stance on immigration.

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Reporter's Notebook
3:08 am
Sat February 9, 2013

For Some In Minneapolis, National Gun Debate Hits Close To Home

President Obama greets law enforcement officers after speaking on ideas to reduce gun violence at the Minneapolis Police Department Special Operations on Monday.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Sat February 9, 2013 10:11 am

The shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in December revived a national debate about gun violence. It's one that is emotional and often highly personal, and it's happening in places far from the halls of Congress. Earlier this week, President Obama was in Minneapolis advocating new limits on guns; no law or set of laws, he said, can keep children completely safe. NPR's David Welna was there for the visit and sent this reporter's notebook about the voices he encountered.

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It's All Politics
3:18 pm
Wed February 6, 2013

Even In Blue Minnesota, Gun Control Seems A Tough Sell

Gun rights advocate Andy Cers of Minneapolis listens to testimony during a Minnesota House hearing on gun violence bills Tuesday in St. Paul.
Jim Mone AP

Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 6:36 pm

Minnesota has a Democratic governor, two Democratic senators, and Democrats control both houses of its Legislature. So it may have come as no surprise when President Obama went there earlier this week to rally support for his proposals to reduce gun violence.

But even in the politically blue state, there's considerable resistance to placing further restrictions on gun ownership.

During his visit to a Minneapolis police facility Monday, Obama urged Minnesotans to find common ground in curbing gun violence.

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Politics
3:55 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

Obama: Lawmakers Must Feel Like They Have To Act Against Gun Violence

Originally published on Tue February 5, 2013 8:29 am

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

President Obama took his case today for revamping the nation's gun laws to the frozen streets of Minneapolis, in the first of what will likely be a series of similar events in the coming weeks. The president urged voters to turn up the pressure on Congress and take action to curb gun violence. NPR's David Welna has our story from Minneapolis.

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It's All Politics
4:13 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

What's Behind Rubio's 'Full Circle Back' On Immigration?

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, is among a bipartisan group of eight senators who this week announced a plan to overhaul the nation's immigration laws.
Charlie Neibergall AP

Originally published on Fri February 1, 2013 5:17 pm

Marco Rubio has been the junior senator from Florida for barely two years, but he's already considered a likely 2016 presidential contender.

The 41-year-old Republican's political star rose still higher this week when he joined a bipartisan group of senators offering a path to citizenship to millions of unauthorized immigrants.

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Politics
4:39 am
Fri February 1, 2013

Confirmation Hearing Was A Rough Ride For Hagel

Originally published on Sun February 3, 2013 10:54 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. President Obama's nominee for defense secretary is a former senator. He is also a Republican.

MONTAGNE: But neither his party affiliation nor his former membership in the Senate club spared Chuck Hagel from almost eight hours of hard questions yesterday.

INSKEEP: At a Senate hearing, Democrats had many of those questions, and Republicans went on the attack. NPR's David Welna reports.

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Around the Nation
3:09 pm
Mon January 28, 2013

Bipartisan Immigration Reform Plan 'A Major Breakthrough'

Originally published on Mon January 28, 2013 4:23 pm

A bipartisan group of eight senators unveiled a plan to overhaul the nation's immigration laws on Monday.

Politics
3:12 pm
Thu January 24, 2013

Congress Could Limit Senators' Ability To Filibuster

Senate leaders have reached an agreement to limit filibusters in the new Congress, especially as they relate to presidential nominations. But they stopped short of requiring senators to hold the floor in person and in real time, as the classic filibuster required.

It's All Politics
3:52 pm
Tue January 22, 2013

President's New Term Doesn't Mean New Day In Congress

The U.S. Capitol at sunrise on Monday, before President Obama's second inauguration. While the president raised big issues in his inaugural address — climate change, gay rights, immigration, the shooting of schoolchildren — none of them appear to top the agenda of Congress, which returned to work Tuesday.
Drew Angerer EPA /Landov

Originally published on Tue January 22, 2013 6:48 pm

The Senate picked up Tuesday exactly where it left off nearly three weeks ago. By a twist of the rules, the Senate chamber remains in its first legislative day of the 113th Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he's kept things at the starting point so that he and his fellow Democrats have the option of changing the rules on the filibuster by a simple majority vote.

"The Senate will take action to make this institution that we all love, the United States Senate, work more effectively," Reid said Tuesday. "We'll consider changes to the Senate rules."

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Politics
2:52 am
Tue January 22, 2013

Republican, Democratic Lawmakers Weigh In On Obama's Speech

Originally published on Tue January 22, 2013 8:06 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK. It is not clear if Congress and the White House will figure out how to work together but they at least figured out how to eat a buffalo.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

After the inauguration, members of Congress welcomed the president to a lunch of bison tenderloin. Afterwards, some told reporters what they thought of the speech. Here's NPR's David Welna.

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Politics
3:38 am
Sat January 19, 2013

House GOP Backs Off Debt Ceiling Demands

Originally published on Sat January 19, 2013 5:13 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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Politics
2:57 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

House Republican Retreat Focuses On Strategies For Rebuilding

Originally published on Thu January 17, 2013 4:10 pm

House Republicans have left Washington, D.C., and reconvened three hours south, just outside Williamsburg, Va., for a closed-door retreat. They've heard from pollsters about why the public doesn't like them. Now they'll hear from consultants about how to woo women and minorities. David Welna talks to Audie Cornish.

It's All Politics
3:57 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

The Decades-Old Gun Ban That's Still On The Books

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department officer Jay Phillippi looks over a fully automatic Thompson machine gun that was turned in during a "Gifts for Guns" program in Compton, Calif., in 2005.
Chris Carlson AP

Originally published on Fri January 18, 2013 5:16 am

When President Obama laid out his proposals Wednesday to reduce gun violence, he included a call for Congress to ban "military-style assault weapons."

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It's All Politics
4:09 am
Sun January 13, 2013

Cabinet Picks Come As Democrats Push To Change Filibuster

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., left, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have talked about a deal to change the Senate's filibuster rules.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Sun January 13, 2013 12:25 pm

In recent weeks, President Obama has chosen Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., as his next secretary of state; former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., to head the Pentagon; counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to be CIA director; and his chief of staff, Jack Lew, to be the next Treasury secretary.

Each nomination will have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and they all could be stopped by a Senate filibuster — that is, the refusal by any one of 100 senators to let a matter come to a final vote.

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It's All Politics
3:28 am
Sat January 5, 2013

As The Capitol Turns: Little Has Changed In Congress' New Season

House Speaker John Boehner swears in the newly elected members of the 113th Congress on Thursday.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Sat January 5, 2013 7:59 am

This week saw both a frantic finale to the much-unloved 112th Congress and, hours later, the swearing in of the new 113th. The cast of lawmakers and their leaders is mostly unchanged. The same can be said for Capitol Hill's never-ending drama over taxes, deficits and spending.

What was arguably this week's most sensational congressional moment did not even take place in Washington. On Wednesday in Trenton, N.J., Republican Gov. Chris Christie blasted the GOP-led House for closing down the last Congress without even considering a Superstorm Sandy disaster relief bill.

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Politics
2:52 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

New Congress Already Has Full Plate With Spending Cuts, Debt Ceiling

Originally published on Thu January 3, 2013 4:10 pm

The 113th Senate formally began on Thursday, with fully one-fifth of them women, the highest percentage to date. Illinois Republican Mark Kirk, who suffered a stroke a year ago, also made his return.

Politics
4:29 am
Wed January 2, 2013

House Approves 'Fiscal Cliff' Measure

Originally published on Wed January 2, 2013 9:16 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

Congress can at least say it started the new year without blowing up the economy. The House approved a plan that eliminates scheduled higher taxes for most Americans and puts off spending cuts for now. President Obama praised its passage last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

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Politics
1:33 am
Mon December 31, 2012

After Fruitless Weekend, Congress Still Seeks Fiscal Deal

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, leaves the Senate chamber to caucus in the Capitol on Sunday.
Molly Riley AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 31, 2012 3:46 am

It is almost unimaginable that both the House and Senate would be in session on a Sunday evening on the penultimate day of the year. And yet, they both were, with lawmakers hoping it was not merely a big waste of time and effort.

A bipartisan push by Senate leaders over the weekend has so far failed to forge a deal to spare American wage earners from tax hikes and shield government programs from drastic cutbacks.

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It's All Politics
3:22 am
Sat December 29, 2012

Congressional Leaders Hopeful As Fiscal Cliff Deadline Nears

House Speaker John Boehner arrives at the White House on Friday for talks with President Obama and congressional leaders aimed at avoiding the "fiscal cliff."
Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat December 29, 2012 3:38 pm

Even though the top four congressional leaders left their White House meeting with the president separately and silently on Friday, they cast the hourlong encounter in a positive light back at the Capitol.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi described the tone of the discussion to head off across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts as "candid." An aide to House Speaker John Boehner put out a statement that noted that the group agreed the next step should be the Senate's — a tacit acknowledgement that Boehner is no longer the lead negotiator with President Obama.

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Politics
4:37 am
Fri December 28, 2012

'Fiscal Cliff' Countdown: 4 Days Until The Plunge

Originally published on Fri December 28, 2012 4:48 am

So far there are no signs of a breakthrough in talks between Democrats and Republicans in Washington to stave off the tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect on New Year's Day. President Obama has summoned top congressional leaders for talks at the White House on Friday.

Politics
4:44 am
Sat December 22, 2012

So Far, No Christmas Miracle For Fiscal Cliff

Originally published on Sat December 22, 2012 8:16 am

A week that began with promising movement toward a deal on the so-called fiscal cliff ended with apparent backward progress. House Speaker John Boehner offered no evidence he had control of his unruly caucus, while President Obama avoided the topic entirely.

Politics
2:39 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

Boehner: House Will Pass 'Plan B' Fiscal Cliff Legislation

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 3:43 pm

With days ticking down to the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts deadline, President Obama took his case to the American public again on Wednesday — and House Republicans were not happy about it. House Speaker John Boehner responded with a statement that barely lasted a minute as the House prepared to vote on competing plans to avert the tax hikes but which do not address the spending cuts.

Politics
3:08 am
Wed December 19, 2012

Capitol Hill Reaction To Gun Mayhem Varies

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 3:44 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Even before the events of the last few days, Congress had a busy agenda. Lawmakers are negotiating over taxes and spending that could affect the economy in the year ahead, not to mention almost every part of the federal government and the take-home pay for millions of Americans.

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It's All Politics
3:39 pm
Mon December 17, 2012

Some Senators Show Willingness To Take On Gun Laws

Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, has an "A" rating from the NRA, but questions why anyone would need the kind of semi-automatic assault rifle used in the Newtown, Conn., killings.
Dave Martin AP

Originally published on Mon December 17, 2012 5:19 pm

As President Obama spoke to mourning families in Newtown, Conn., on Sunday night, he clearly seemed to suggest a need for tougher gun laws.

"Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard?" he said.

For Congress, the politics have been too hard.

The combination of a powerful gun owners' lobby in the form of the National Rifle Association and a loss of public support for gun control has stymied efforts in recent years to tighten gun laws.

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It's All Politics
4:42 am
Sun December 16, 2012

Parting Advice From The Senators Leaving Congress

Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun December 16, 2012 7:11 am

The United States is now just over two weeks away from a plunge over the "fiscal cliff" — that is, unless Congress can agree on a deal to prevent automatic tax hikes and spending cuts in the new year. But once again, Congress seems headed for the brink.

That's been happening more and more in recent years. And it was noted sadly by a string of retiring senators as they were bidding their colleagues farewell this past week.

Daniel Akaka

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It's All Politics
3:19 am
Sat December 15, 2012

Democrats Dig In Their Heels On Entitlement Cuts

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Democrats aren't going to throw America's seniors over the fiscal cliff to give a tax cut to the wealthiest.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Sun December 16, 2012 11:43 am

Congress has barely two weeks to agree on a deficit-cutting deal to keep the nation from going over the "fiscal cliff" in the new year. The problem is that right now there is no such deal to agree on.

Republicans reject the higher tax rates for top incomes that President Obama demands. And they also insist on more austere entitlement programs, which has Democrats digging in their heels.

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Politics
4:16 am
Sun December 9, 2012

Call It Want You Want, But It's Not A Debt Crisis

Originally published on Sun December 9, 2012 12:36 pm

It's widely known as the fiscal cliff, but some prominent Republicans have been calling it a "debt crisis." Economists agree such a crisis may be coming, but it's not here yet. Demographic changes are forcing a reckoning of how to pay for what people want from their government.

Politics
2:54 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

Senator DeMint Leaving Congress To Head Think Tank

Originally published on Thu December 6, 2012 4:40 pm

Senator Jim DeMint on Thursday announced that he will not return to the new Congress, and instead will resign early next month. DeMint will instead lead the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

It's All Politics
1:20 am
Sun December 2, 2012

The 3 Unofficial GOP Rules That Are Making A Deficit Deal Even Harder

House Speaker John Boehner takes questions during a news conference Friday on Capitol Hill.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Sun December 2, 2012 5:40 pm

Making an already head-splittingly difficult deal on the fiscal cliff even harder to resolve is a set of three rules by which the Republicans who run the House play.

These are not official regulations; they're more shibboleths that House GOP leaders have adopted in recent years. And those rules are leaving House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, little room to maneuver as lawmakers try to avoid a set of tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect at the end of the year.

1. "The majority of the majority"

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Politics
3:04 am
Fri November 30, 2012

Republicans Bristle At Obama's Tax, Spending Plan

Originally published on Fri November 30, 2012 5:05 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

A high stakes negotiation that got underway two weeks ago on a congenial note has turned acrimonious. We're talking about the effort by the White House and Congress to avoid those automatic tax hikes and sweeping spending cuts that kick in on January 1st. The top two Republicans on Capitol Hill are flatly rejecting what the White House proposed to them yesterday. NPR's David Welna has the story.

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