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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Politics
2:02 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Mega-Donor Opens Wallet On The Hill To Kill Online Gambling

Sheldon Adelson listens as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting on March 29 in Las Vegas. Several possible GOP presidential candidates gathered in Las Vegas as Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate, looks for a new favorite to help on the 2016 race for the White House.
Julie Jacobson AP

Originally published on Thu April 3, 2014 5:34 pm

Now that the Supreme Court has eliminated the cap on the total amount one individual can give to candidates in each election, many are wondering how the very rich will respond.

If they spread their money across a wider swath of lawmakers, would that improve their chances of passing the legislation they want?

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson could be the first test case.

Expanding One's Reach Across Congress

Adelson is pushing a bill through Congress that would ban online gambling, and he has pledged he will spend "whatever it takes."

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It's All Politics
4:10 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

As Obamacare Deadline Nears, Louisiana Gets Special Attention

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., speaks at an Oct. 2013 news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Landrieu's support for the Affordable Care Act is center stage in her campaign for a fourth Senate term.
Evan Vucci AP

With only four days left before the March 31 enrollment deadline, the White House is kicking into high gear trying to round up more Affordable Care Act enrollees – and Louisiana got special attention Thursday.

Why? Enrollment in the federal healthcare exchange there has lagged behind other states and, perhaps as important, citizens are getting bombarded with anti-ACA ads as Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu gears up for a tight race in November.

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Politics
1:30 am
Wed March 26, 2014

How To Meet Your Congressman

The Capitol Dome is visible through the skylights of the new Capitol Visitor Center.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 1:21 pm

For all the campaigning and schmoozing members of Congress have to do, the truth is that the vast majority of Americans will never actually meet their lawmakers.

To be fair, not everyone wants to. But among those who do, there's serious competition for a lawmaker's time. So, how does an average citizen get access on Capitol Hill? The quick answer: It's not easy.

First, do the math. When it comes to face time with a member of Congress, there are 535 of them, and 314 million of you.

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Politics
2:16 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

With Clock Ticking Down, Obama Polishes Judicial Legacy

President Obama speaks in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in November 2013, shortly after the Senate voted 52-48 to weaken the power of the filibuster.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 4:22 pm

Republicans have a decent shot at taking control of the Senate in November, so President Obama could have as little as nine months left to shape the judiciary he will leave behind.

Senate Democrats positioned themselves to help with that endeavor when they eliminated the filibuster for most judicial nominees last November. But Republicans are still finding ways to slow things down.

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Economy
3:03 am
Fri March 14, 2014

Senators Agree To Compromise Extending Jobless Benefits

Originally published on Fri March 14, 2014 9:27 am

Negotiators in the Senate reached a bi-partisan deal to extend unemployment benefits for 5 months, retroactive to the end of last year. A full Senate vote isn't expected until later this month.

News
2:16 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Senate Blocks Military Sexual Assault Reforms

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 5:01 am

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

After months of anticipation, the Senate has rejected a proposal to fundamentally change the way the military prosecutes sexual assault. Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand of New York needed 60 votes for a bill that would give military prosecutors, rather than commanders, final say over which sexual assault cases to prosecute. The legislation got 55 votes today.

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Politics
3:22 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Democrats Help Block Nominee For DOJ's Top Civil Rights Job

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 4:52 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

A handful of Senate Democrats joined Republicans yesterday to defeat President Obama's choice to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

Debo Adegbile is a civil rights lawyer who once helped handle the appeal of a cop killer. He nomination forced a tough choice upon Democrats: Vote yes and infuriate law enforcement groups - or vote no and anger minority voters.

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Business
3:13 am
Wed March 5, 2014

House Approves Measure To Ease Flood Insurance Hikes

Originally published on Wed March 5, 2014 7:17 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

The House overwhelmingly passed legislation last night to undo flood insurance reform that Congress passed less than two years ago. When homeowners started calling lawmakers about sharp premium hikes, both chambers moved swiftly to ease the pain.

NPR's Ailsa Chang reports.

AILSA CHNAG, BYLINE: In 2012, Democrat Maxine Waters of California put her name on a bill that was meant to help the National Flood Insurance Program dig itself out of huge debt. Last night, she said she made a big mistake.

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Politics
1:26 am
Thu February 27, 2014

FEMA Flood Insurance Law Faces Partial Repeal Over Premiums

Levees, like this one in New Orleans, must be certified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before appearing on federal flood maps. This change has resulted in higher flood insurance premiums in some areas.
Mario Tama Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 8:38 am

The House is expected to vote as early as next week to partially repeal a 2012 law that overhauled the National Flood Insurance Program, which is tens of billions of dollars in debt.

The law was meant to make people living in flood-prone areas foot more of the insurance bill. But lawmakers didn't realize how many homeowners would be affected — or how hard they'd be hit.

You can find some of those homeowners in Bayou Gauche, about 30 miles west of New Orleans.

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Politics
1:37 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Democratic Sen. Landrieu Walks A Fine Line In Red Louisiana

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., has won some conservative supporters in her state, but her support for Obamacare is putting her re-election at risk.
Evan Vucci AP

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

If Democrats are going to keep their majority in the Senate, they'll need to hang on to a few critical seats they hold in conservative states.

Mary Landrieu of Louisiana has one of those, and like some of her colleagues up for re-election, her support of the Affordable Care Act could be the mountain to overcome this fall.

The question for Landrieu is: Will Louisiana voters define her by Obamacare, or judge her on the entire record she's built over nearly two decades as a senator?

For Some, Obamacare's A Dealbreaker

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Politics
2:29 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

Senate Follows House Lead In Passing Debt Limit Raise

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 6:00 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

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Politics
3:18 am
Mon February 10, 2014

Does Congress Have Enough Political Will To Reduce The Debt?

Originally published on Tue February 11, 2014 8:24 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

When Congress reached a bipartisan budget deal last December, there was much fanfare about the compromises made by both parties. And immediately afterwards, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle began working to reverse one of the spending cuts - a small reduction in military pensions. One plan to restore those pensions is up for a vote today in the Senate. As NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, resistance against the small cut is calling into question whether Congress has the political will to reduce the long-term debt.

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Politics
3:21 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Senate Moves Forward On Unemployment Benefits

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 5:12 am

In a tally that surprised even its sponsors, a half dozen Republican senators gave Democrats enough votes to move forward with a bill extending emergency unemployment benefits for another three months. The proposal likely faces an even tougher hurdle in the Republican-controlled House.

It's All Politics
1:17 am
Thu December 26, 2013

Gun Control Lobby Takes Note Of Opposition's Success

Supporters for gun rights gather outside the National Shooting Sports Foundation headquarters in Newtown, Conn., on March 28.
Jessica Hill AP

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 8:13 pm

For gun control advocates hoping to see federal gun laws tighten after the shootings in Newtown, Conn., 2013 was a disheartening year. A narrow provision to expand background checks failed in the Senate.

For gun rights activists, the death of that legislation proved once more their single-issue intensity and decades-long grass-roots organizing were enough to prevail. Those are also valuable lessons for their opponents.

A 'Voice' For Lost Children

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Politics
4:06 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Will Obamacare Play Big In 2014? Keep An Eye On N.H. Senate Race

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., on Capitol Hill earlier this year.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 9:54 am

With a new White House push to promote the Affordable Care Act well underway, the question is whether an improved HealthCare.gov site and onslaught of positive talking points will be enough to bolster Senate Democrats facing tough races in 2014.

One re-election fight to watch is Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's in New Hampshire, where she's been taking heat for supporting the new health care law.

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Politics
2:50 am
Fri November 15, 2013

House To Vote On GOP Solution To Canceled Insurance

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 8:49 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. The first part of October was a political disaster for the Republican Party. After being blamed for the government shutdown, the GOP approval rating fell to historic lows.

MONTAGNE: The weeks since have become a political disaster for Democrats. Problems with the Affordable Care Act have knocked President Obama's poll ratings as low as they've ever been.

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It's All Politics
1:17 am
Wed November 13, 2013

Congressional Odd Couple Could Be Key To Any Budget Breakthrough

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., prepare to meet reporters on Capitol Hill on Oct. 17, after a breakfast meeting when the leaders of the bipartisan budget conference say they pledged to seek "common ground."
Win McNamee Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 3:11 am

Twenty-nine lawmakers are supposed to come up with a long-term budget deal by mid-December. They meet again Wednesday around a conference table, led by two people who couldn't be more different: Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

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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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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.

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
2:38 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.

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
2:44 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
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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Politics
3:11 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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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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