Ailsa Chang

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who covers Congress for NPR. She landed in public radio after spending six years as a lawyer.

Since joining NPR in 2012, Chang has covered battles over immigration, the healthcare law, gun control and White House appointments. She crisscrossed the country in the months before the Republican takeover of the Senate, bringing stories about Washington from the Deep South, Southwest and New England.

Chang started out as a radio reporter in 2009, and has since earned a string of national awards for her work. In 2012, she was honored with the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton for her investigation on the New York City Police Department's "stop-and-frisk" policy and allegations of unlawful marijuana arrests by officers. The series 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.

The former lawyer served as a law clerk to Judge John T. Noonan, Jr. on the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco.

Chang graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University where she received her bachelor's degree.

She earned her law degree with distinction from Stanford Law School, where she won the Irving Hellman, Jr. Special Award for the best piece written by a student in the Stanford Law Review in 2001.

Chang was also a Fulbright Scholar at Oxford University, where she received a master's degree in media law. And she has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

Prior to coming to NPR, Chang was an investigative reporter at NPR member station WNYC from 2009 to 2012 in New York City, focusing on criminal justice and legal affairs. She was a Kroc fellow at NPR from 2008 to 2009, as well as 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
2:24 pm
Fri March 20, 2015

Budget Reconciliation Explained Through Chutes And Ladders

Think of reconciliation as the biggest ladder in the game Chutes and Ladders — a procedural shortcut. But a presidential veto of whatever gets passed through reconciliation means tumbling back down a chute.
Ben Husmann Flickr

Originally published on Fri March 20, 2015 5:58 pm

There's a word you're going to be hearing a lot as Congress tries to pass a budget this year: reconciliation. It's a procedural fast-track lawmakers get to use after they approve a budget. Republicans are hoping to repeal the Affordable Care Act — or, at least parts of it — through reconciliation, but they're not likely to win that game.

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It's All Politics
2:25 pm
Mon March 16, 2015

Missed Abortion Language Tangles Senate's Trafficking Bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he won't let the chamber vote on Loretta Lynch — the nominee to become the next attorney general — until the Senate passes its human trafficking bill.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Mon March 16, 2015 6:01 pm

A once widely supported Senate bill that would create a fund for human trafficking victims has hit a snag over language Democrats say they didn't know was in the bill — a provision that would bar funds collected under the measure from being used to pay for abortions. And the impasse over that language now threatens to delay other Senate business, like confirming a new attorney general.

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Politics
3:04 pm
Fri March 13, 2015

Tom Cotton: The Freshman Senator Behind The Iran Letter

Originally published on Fri March 13, 2015 6:00 pm

Freshman Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who has been in office barely two months, penned an open letter to Iranian leaders this week that 47 Republican senators signed. NPR profiles the Harvard-trained lawyer and Iraq War veteran.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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Politics
4:25 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

House Passes No-Strings-Attached Bill To Fund Homeland Security

An effort by some congressional Republicans to block President Obama's executive actions on immigration by tying it to a Homeland Security spending bill officially failed on Tuesday. House Speaker John Boehner yet again bucked the most conservative wing of his party and brought a "clean" funding bill to the floor. It passed easily, thanks to unanimous backing by Democrats.

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It's All Politics
6:30 pm
Tue February 24, 2015

Tables Have Turned As Senate Barrels Toward Homeland Security Deadline

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has offered Democrats a Department of Homeland Security funding bill without provisions, but Democrats still want a commitment from House Speaker John Boehner.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Tue February 24, 2015 11:45 pm

The Senate is speeding ahead into the first real deadline it's had since the beginning of the new Congress. In many ways, nothing has changed from past deadlines — lawmakers don't seem interested in resolving the matter with time to spare, rhetoric is hot and angry, and as always, one side is accusing the other of filibustering. Except this time it's the Republicans howling at the Democrats for being the obstructionists.

The script remains the same. The two sides have merely switched parts.

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It's All Politics
2:22 am
Mon February 23, 2015

For TSA Officers, Congress' Inaction On Funding Could Hit Home

If Congress doesn't act to fund the Department of Homeland Security by Friday, then over 200,000 TSA employees won't be receiving paychecks — but many of them will still have to show up to work.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 2:23 pm

Congress has until the end of Friday to figure out a way to fund the Department of Homeland Security. Otherwise, the department shuts down. But a "shutdown" doesn't mean workers go home. Instead, the vast majority of transportation security officers will have to keep showing up for work — but they won't be seeing paychecks until lawmakers find a way out.

For transportation security officers, it's a bad memory replaying way too soon.

A Case Of Deja Vu

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It's All Politics
8:56 am
Sun February 8, 2015

McConnell's Call For 'Regular Order' May Not Mean What It Used To

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky returns to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 29, 2015.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Sun February 8, 2015 9:41 am

"Regular order" is a phrase you'd normally hear only from Congress nerds, but it's increasingly common in conversations about the Senate this year.

When Mitch McConnell became Senate majority leader, he promised he'd restore what he called regular order in that chamber. But Democrats have been accusing him of violating regular order ever since.

When you listen to senators talk about regular order, it sounds like this fabulous, amazing thing. For Republican John McCain of Arizona, regular order is about getting stuff done.

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Politics
5:50 am
Sat January 10, 2015

Keystone Supporters Hope Amendments Will Soften Pipeline Opposition

Originally published on Sat January 10, 2015 9:31 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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Politics
4:31 pm
Thu January 1, 2015

2014 Yielded Bumper Crop Of Judicial Confirmations

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, shown walking towards the Senate chamber on December 16, pushed through a final batch of judicial nominees this month, before the Republican-dominated Senate takes over in the new year.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 1, 2015 8:34 pm

Since he's taken office, President Obama has seen more than 300 federal judges confirmed, putting him ahead of the past two presidents at their six-year marks. A huge chunk of those confirmations happened in 2014 — the year after the Senate Democrats got rid of the filibuster for most judicial nominations.

To assess how that rules change might have helped things along, consider a few numbers.

In 2014, 89 judges were confirmed; that's the highest yearly total in two decades, a it's almost one-third of all of Obama's confirmations since he first took office six years ago.

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Politics
6:12 am
Sat December 13, 2014

Outrage On The Left And Right As Senate Delays Spending Vote

Originally published on Sat December 13, 2014 12:21 pm

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

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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Politics
2:57 am
Mon December 8, 2014

Their Senate, Their Rules: GOP May Allow Blocking Of Nominees Again

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves a closed-door policy meeting at the Capitol on Dec. 2. McConnell says he wants to make the Senate work the way it used to, but not all Republicans are on board.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Mon December 8, 2014 11:28 am

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says one of his top priorities will be to make the Senate work the way it used to — which would include the use of filibusters to block presidential appointments. But would that improve the way the Senate works? Republicans will be debating that question behind closed doors Tuesday. Many were furious when Democrats eliminated the filibuster for nearly all confirmation votes last year — a change some called the "nuclear option." But now that the GOP will be in the majority, they're not all that eager to go back.

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Politics
3:44 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

Mitch McConnell's Mission: Making The Senate Work Again

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky walks to his office to meet with new GOP senators-elect at the Capitol on Wednesday.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed November 12, 2014 3:46 pm

At 72, after 30 years in the U.S. Senate, Mitch McConnell has finally realized his life's ambition.

He never wanted to be president — he just wanted to be Senate majority leader. And when he ascends to that perch come January, McConnell will finally have a chance to shape the chamber he says he deeply loves. McConnell declared his first priority will be to make what's been called a paralyzed Senate function again. But the politician who became the face of obstruction over the past four years will have to persuade Democrats to cooperate.

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Politics
3:00 am
Wed November 5, 2014

After 8 Years, Republicans Win Control Of U.S. Senate

Originally published on Wed November 5, 2014 9:58 am

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

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

There is very little upside for Democrats in yesterday's election results. Think about these names...

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Wendy Davis was a rising Democratic star who lost the Texas governor's race.

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Politics
3:04 am
Mon November 3, 2014

Sen. Mitch McConnell Has More Than Most Riding On Midterm Elections

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky waves while riding with his wife Elaine Chao in the Hopkins County Veterans Day Parade on Sunday in Madisonville. McConnell remains locked in a close race with Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Originally published on Mon February 23, 2015 11:49 am

If Republicans take over the Senate, the man expected to become the next majority leader is Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The title would be the culmination of a political career spanning more than three decades.

But first, McConnell has to win a sixth Senate term in a state where his popularity's been sagging.

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Politics
2:36 am
Mon October 27, 2014

After Sunday Service, Georgia Churches Get Souls To The Polls

Martha Frazier rides a bus to vote in Miami in 2012. This year, Georgia churches are running similar "Souls to the Polls" programs, busing worshipers to early voting locations after Sunday service.
J Pat Carter AP

Originally published on Mon October 27, 2014 12:06 pm

At The Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church in Atlanta, about 700 congregants jam the pews every Sunday morning at 10:30. The church is near the edge of DeKalb County, and it's helping lead a "Souls to the Polls" drive.

Georgia Democrat Michelle Nunn is running an extremely tight race for Senate against Republican David Perdue, and the difference between victory and defeat could ride on the African-American vote. The push is on to get voters to turn out early — especially at black churches.

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Politics
2:33 am
Wed October 22, 2014

The 2014 Campaign Ads That You Just Can't Stop Replaying

In this campaign ad, GOP candidate Terri Lynn Land sips coffee after asking the viewer to "think about" accusations that she's waging a war on women.
Terry Land YouTube

Originally published on Wed October 29, 2014 1:05 pm

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Politics
2:47 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

Health Officials Face Ebola Questions On Capitol Hill

Originally published on Thu October 16, 2014 4:35 pm

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

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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Politics
2:05 am
Mon September 29, 2014

In N.H. Race, A Rematch Of A Rematch

Then-incumbent Rep. Frank Guinta, R-N.H., and then-Democratic challenger Carol Shea-Porter debate during a Sept. 2012 forum at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. Guinta, who lost to Shea-Porter in 2012, is running for his old seat in 2014.
David Lane AP

Originally published on Tue September 30, 2014 8:46 pm

Think of it as a rematch of a rematch.

In New Hampshire, Democratic Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter is battling Republican Frank Guinta for the third time in a row. Each has beaten the other before – Guinta defeated Shea-Porter during the 2010 Tea Party wave, and Shea-Porter won her seat back in 2012.

You wonder if it starts to get boring when you're hitting the same rival over and over again.

"Well, I know what he's going to say, that's for sure," says Shea-Porter.
Guinta admits the same: "I mean, it is kind of old hat."

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Politics
2:15 am
Fri September 19, 2014

Congress Quietly Extends The Budget — Past Election Day, Anyway

Originally published on Fri September 19, 2014 5:57 am

This week on Capitol Hill, a proposal to aid Syrian rebels got all the drama, while the larger government funding bill it was attached to barely got mention. But that spending package is quite similar to the one that led to the government shutdown in October — most notably, it still funds the Affordable Care Act. Yet this year, talk of a government shutdown was virtually nonexistent.

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Politics
1:34 am
Fri September 12, 2014

Expanding ISIS Fight Scrambles GOP Plan To Extend Budget And Get Out

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, leaves after a news conference Thursday on Capitol Hill in Washington. Boehner responded positively to the proposals from President Obama about confronting Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Fri September 12, 2014 11:03 am

House Republicans were hoping for September to be a blissfully uneventful month, with election season just around the corner. But President Obama dashed those hopes this week, when he asked Congress for authorization to train and arm Syrian rebels against the group calling itself the Islamic State.

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Politics
3:17 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Pryor Sticks To The Middle In Close Arkansas Senate Race

Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor is fighting for his seat in a state that's grown more Republican. He's campaigning hard at events like this University of Arkansas Razorbacks game.
Ailsa Chang NPR

Originally published on Mon September 8, 2014 5:04 pm

Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor is running one of the closest Senate races in the country. The fight, which could determine which party will control the Senate next year, may be on its way to becoming the most expensive race in the state's history.

Since President Obama won in 2008, Arkansas has grown more Republican, but Pryor is still hoping to win a third term on his reputation as a down-the-middle guy.

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Politics
2:10 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

Senate Control May Swing On North Carolina's Unpopularity Contest

Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., takes questions from the media in April during an appearance in Durham. Hagan has tried for her first 5 1/2 years in the U.S. Senate to convince North Carolina voters that being in the middle of the road is a good thing.
Gerry Broome AP

Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 10:06 am

North Carolina is one of the half-dozen states that could cost the Democrats their majority in the Senate this November, and both contenders in the race are hoping to capitalize on a backlash.

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Politics
3:12 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

VA Nominee Steps Before Senate Committee

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 6:17 pm

Robert McDonald, President Obama's nominee to run the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs, is appearing before the Senate for his confirmation hearing. He faces the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, which will vote on whether to send his nomination to the Senate floor.

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

Politics
2:21 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

House GOP Counters Obama's Request By Promising Own Proposal

Originally published on Tue July 15, 2014 5:23 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. It's a familiar dance in Washington - President Obama makes a request to Congress and the House says no. This time, the no is in response to the $3.7 billion dollars the president requested to respond to an influx of unaccompanied immigrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border.

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Politics
1:23 am
Thu July 10, 2014

Could A Socialist Senator Become A National Brand?

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont speaks during a committee hearing on veterans' health care. Sanders, an Independent, is a possible 2016 presidential candidate.
Cliff Owen AP

Originally published on Thu July 10, 2014 9:30 am

As members of Congress continue hammering out a bill to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs' beleaguered health care system, attention has focused on one man leading the charge: Bernie Sanders, Independent senator from Vermont and a self-described socialist.

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Politics
3:25 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

Addressing Border Crisis, Politicians Find Invitation In Misperception

Originally published on Tue June 24, 2014 5:14 pm

The House Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing Tuesday to address the influx of unaccompanied immigrant children from Central America. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson spoke at the proceedings, saying the situation at the border was "urgent."

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

Transcript

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Politics
2:27 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Old Senate Tradition Lies Behind Controversial Judge's Nomination

There's an idea in the Senate that it's still a chamber operating on mutual respect and goodwill between colleagues. That's why venerable traditions like "blue slips" — slips of paper senators can use to block any White House choice for judgeships in their home state — carry over today.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 8:56 am

As President Obama continues to take heat for nominating to the federal bench a judge who once wanted to keep the Confederate emblem on the Georgia state flag, the White House says what's partly to blame for the choice is an old Senate tradition.

It turns out that tradition — which gives virtual veto power over judicial nominations to home state senators — helps explain why almost all the judicial vacancies without nominees are now in states with Republican senators.

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It's All Politics
5:10 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

Sen. Isakson: Boggs Fight Won't Break White House Deal

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., speaks during a May 2013 Senate Finance Committee hearing.
Charles Dharapak AP

If the judicial nomination of Michael Boggs gets derailed, at least one of Georgia's senators says it won't unravel a deal the two senators entered with the White House to select seven nominees for the federal bench in Georgia.

"The deal was we agreed on seven nominees for seven judicial appointments and asked for all of them to get a hearing at the same time, and that was the deal," said Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia. "Everybody lived up to what they said."

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Politics
2:05 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Obama Judicial Nominee Gets A Hostile Reception From Democrats

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 5:26 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

One of President Obama's most controversial picks for the federal bench faced a barrage of hostile questions from Democrats, during his confirmation hearing today. Michael Boggs is a state judge in Georgia. He was nominated to the federal district court as the result of a deal between the White House and Georgia's two Republican senators.

As NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee spent the morning hammering away at Boggs' conservative record.

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Politics
12:38 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Election-Year Politics Dooms Energy Bill, Averts Pipeline Vote

Pipefitters work on construction of the Keystone XL pipeline's southern portion outside Tulsa, Okla., in January.
PR Newswire

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 10:23 am

As expected, an energy efficiency bill failed in the Senate on Monday, which makes a separate Senate vote on the Keystone XL oil pipeline unlikely before the November election.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had made a Keystone vote contingent upon passage of the energy efficiency bill, and letting one doom the other may have temporarily gotten him out of a bind.

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