David Welna

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.

Having previously covered Congress over a 13-year period starting in 2001, Welna reported extensively on matters related to national security. He covered the debates on Capitol Hill over authorizing the use of military force prior to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the expansion of government surveillance practices arising from Congress' approval of the USA Patriot Act. Welna also reported on congressional probes into the use of torture by U.S. officials interrogating terrorism suspects. He also traveled with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to Afghanistan on the Pentagon chief's first overseas trip in that post.

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 threaten the survival of small farms, the personal impact of foreign conflicts and economic crises 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 deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, the mass exodus of Cubans who fled the island on rafts in 1994, the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, and the U.S. 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, 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 degree and distinction in Latin American Studies. He was subsequently a Thomas J. Watson Foundation fellow. 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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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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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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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
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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It's All Politics
3:08 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
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
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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Politics
1:29 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Congress Is On Pace To Be The Least Productive Ever

The Capitol in Washington, D.C., seen on a cloudy day two weeks into the partial government shutdown.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 5:24 am

We're only at halftime for the 113th Congress, but if current trends hold, it's well on track to being the least productive lawmaking effort in the nation's history.

During this Congress' first yearlong session, just 58 bills became law — and many that did were about naming post offices or transferring federal lands. In fact, the most memorable act of Congress this year may well have been its failure to act in time to avoid a government shutdown.

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Politics
10:34 am
Sun December 22, 2013

Pension Cut Angers Senate's Staunchest Military Supporters

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., left, is urging her Senate colleagues to change the budget proposal that cuts retirement benefits for current and future military retirees.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Sun December 22, 2013 12:33 pm

In the two-year, $2 trillion budget deal that cleared the Senate last week, one item, worth just one-sixth of 1 percent of that total, was the reason many senators said they voted against it.

That item would produce some $6 billion in savings by shaving a percentage point off annual cost-of-living adjustments, and it would apply only to military pensions. Not all military pensions — just the retirement paid to veterans younger than 62.

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Politics
5:23 am
Sat December 14, 2013

Senate Takes a Break After 48-Hour Debate

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky heads to the Senate floor to vote on Friday.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 10:31 pm

After pulling two consecutive all-nighters, a bleary-eyed Senate is taking a breather on Saturday.

The fractious 48-hour session that ended Friday was fallout from a decision that the chamber's ruling Democrats made last month to move stalled nominees.

This week's session was the first since Democrats detonated the "nuclear option" and eliminated the GOP minority's ability to filibuster most nominations.

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Politics
3:48 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

To Fix Social Security, Some Democrats Want To Lift Wage Cap

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D- Mass., listens to testimony during a Banking Committee hearing on Nov. 12. In a Senate floor speech on Social Security last month, Warren said, "With some modest adjustments, we can keep the system solvent for many more years, and we could even increase benefits."
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 5:39 pm

For the past three years, there's been a shortfall in the payroll taxes collected for Social Security. And as more baby boomers join the ranks of the 57 million people already receiving benefits, that deficit is bound to keep growing.

At the same time, the overall share of wages being taxed for Social Security is shrinking as the higher wages that are exempt have soared. The Social Security Board of Trustees predicts a nearly $3 trillion trust fund built up over decades will vanish within 20 years.

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U.S.
6:42 am
Fri November 29, 2013

Tax Break For Mass-Transit Commutes May Soon Be Slashed

Commuters wait on the platform as a Metro-North train arrives in Bridgeport, Conn.
Craig Ruttle AP

Originally published on Fri November 29, 2013 1:57 pm

Unless Congress acts quickly, taking mass transit to work is about to get more expensive for some people.

For the past four years, public transportation users and people who drive their cars to work and pay for parking have been able set aside up to $245 a month in wages tax free if they're used for commuting costs or workplace parking.

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It's All Politics
4:35 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

With Nominees Stalled, Democrats Reprise Filibuster Threat

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (left) with Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley on Capitol Hill in July. Both senators favor curtailing the minority's right to filibuster judicial nominees.
Jose Luis Magana Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Wed November 20, 2013 5:11 pm

For the third time this year, the Democrats who run the Senate are threatening to change that chamber's rules on the Republican minority's most potent weapon: the filibuster. They say the GOP's obstruction of President Obama's nominations leaves them no other choice.

Democrats say that this time, they're ready to pull the trigger on what's known as "the nuclear option." Doing so would amount to altering the rules not with the traditional two-thirds majority but a simple majority of 51.

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It's All Politics
2:51 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

Senate Votes To Send A Message Ahead Of Next Year's Election

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks during a news conference as the Senate prepares to vote on a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation on Thursday.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 3:52 pm

Midterm elections are still a year off, but the scramble to gain a political edge at the polls is already well underway on Capitol Hill.

Bills are brought up and votes taken not so much in hopes they will prevail, but rather to send a political message. In the Senate, both parties are at it.

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Politics
2:02 am
Tue November 5, 2013

Senate Advances Employment Non-Discrimination Act

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 3:08 am

With a vote of 61-30, the Senate voted to move forward on legislation that would prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Monday's vote opens the floor to debate on the bill and the Senate is expected to schedule a full vote by week's end.

Politics
2:24 pm
Thu October 31, 2013

Why Have So Few African-Americans Been Elected To The Senate?

Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 4:01 pm

Former Newark Mayor Cory Booker was sworn in Thursday, making him only the fourth African-American elected by popular vote to the United States Senate, and only the second in the chamber currently. This is in contrast to the 41 blacks who represent House districts.

NPR Story
3:48 am
Wed October 30, 2013

Without Earmark 'Grease,' Some Say, Spending Bills Get Stuck

Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 3:24 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

While Congress tries to get to the bottom of what went wrong with the Affordable Care Act website, it's got other problems on its mind. Leading the list is the inability of lawmakers to carry out their most fundamental constitutional responsibility: appropriating the money needed to run the government in a timely fashion.

This month's shutdown was only the most recent fallout of the breakdown in appropriations. Some lawmakers say the Republican ban on earmarks nearly three years ago has only made things worse.

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