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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It's All Politics
2:55 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

GOP Debate: Is Obamacare Fight Worth A Government Shutdown?

Originally published on Fri August 16, 2013 6:40 am

Congressional Republicans agree that the new federal health care program should be ended. But they are finding themselves bitterly divided over how.

They have tried dozens of times to repeal it. Now, some GOP lawmakers want to block all money for Obamacare in a stopgap spending bill that must be approved next month to prevent the government from shutting down on Oct. 1. But other Republicans say that won't work and may well backfire.

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Politics
3:10 am
Mon August 5, 2013

McConnell Squares Off With Rivals At Ky. Political Picnic

Originally published on Mon August 5, 2013 3:44 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Over the weekend the tiny town of Fancy Farm, Kentucky was the scene of a political brawl worthy of the Hatfields and McCoys. No one was run out of town, but Mitch O'Connell, the Senate Republican leader, who is asking Kentuckians for a sixth term, did get pretty roughed up - verbally. You'd hardly guess it all began as a church picnic.

NPR's David Welna was there.

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Politics
2:56 am
Sat July 20, 2013

After The Senate Filibuster Deal: Still 'Room For Bad Behavior'

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks Tuesday on Capitol Hill. After a compromise, Reid stepped back from a threat to strip the Senate GOP minority of its right to filibuster executive branch nominees.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Sat July 20, 2013 2:48 pm

It was the eve of a series of votes to end GOP filibusters of seven presidential appointees, and Democrats had vowed they would resort to the "nuclear option" and get rid of such filibusters altogether should any of those stalled nominees remain blocked.

All but two of the Senate's 100 members squeezed into the camera-free old chamber that the Senate used until just before the Civil War. Behind closed doors, they talked for more than three hours.

I buttonholed West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller as he stepped out of that Monday night meeting.

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Texas 2020
2:43 pm
Thu July 4, 2013

Ted Cruz And His Texas Electorate At Odds On Immigration

Originally published on Tue July 9, 2013 10:38 am

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. Happy 4th of July. And we begin the hour by taking the nation's political temperature on a couple of points. First, immigration, and how that issue is playing in a key border state. In our series, Texas 2020, we've been covering the implications of changing demographics. One of the rising political stars in Texas is the son of a foreign-born father and American mother.

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It's All Politics
1:07 am
Thu July 4, 2013

Immigration Debate In Congress Riles Up Texas Republicans

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas delivers remarks during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting to work on the immigration legislation in May.
Michael Reynolds EPA/Landov

Originally published on Thu July 4, 2013 7:48 am

All this week, NPR is taking a look at the demographic shifts that could shake up Texas politics in the coming years — and what that could mean for the rest of the country.

Within a decade, Hispanics are bound to become the largest ethnic group in Texas. These often Democratic-leaning Texans could reshape the state's GOP-dominated political landscape.

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It's All Politics
1:01 am
Thu June 20, 2013

How Ted Cruz's Father Shaped His Views On Immigration

Ted Cruz celebrates his victory in the Texas Senate race with his father, Rafael, and daughter Caroline on Nov. 6, 2012, in Houston.
David J. Phillip AP

As the Senate debates a massive overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, one of its newest members has emerged as a leading opponent of the bill's most controversial feature: a path to citizenship for millions living in the country unlawfully.

The views of that freshman senator — Texas Republican Ted Cruz — have been significantly colored by the saga of his own father, an immigrant from Cuba.

"In my opinion, if we allow those who are here illegally to be put on a path to citizenship, that is incredibly unfair to those who follow the rules," Cruz has said.

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Politics
4:49 am
Fri June 14, 2013

Religious Conservatives Focus On Midterm Elections

Originally published on Tue June 25, 2013 1:50 pm

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

They're calling it the Road to Majority. It's the third annual meeting of conservative religious activists with the Faith and Freedom Coalition. The conference is underway now in Washington, D.C. Its stated aim: To boost the conservative vote for next year's midterm election.

As NPR's David Welna reports, it's also a platform for Republican stars eyeing the White House in 2016.

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It's All Politics
3:21 am
Sun June 2, 2013

Ted Cruz: 'The New Voice' Of The GOP?

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, accompanied by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., speaks during a news conference with Tea Party leaders on May 16. Bachmann, chairwoman of the Tea Party Caucus, announced this week she won't seek re-election. Meanwhile, Cruz's fortunes continue to soar.
Molly Riley AP

Originally published on Sun June 2, 2013 8:56 am

On the same day this week that House Tea Party Caucus co-founder Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., announced she won't seek re-election, the fortunes of another Tea Party favorite continued to soar.

Freshman GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas headlined a big fundraiser thrown by the New York Republican Party in the heart of Manhattan. More than 600 Republicans gathered to write checks to their struggling party, which has no statewide officeholders.

But it was not exactly a welcoming committee that awaited Cruz outside the Grand Hyatt hotel.

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It's All Politics
12:56 am
Wed May 29, 2013

Immigration Measure Faces Test In Senate, Rival Bill In House

A bill proposed by the Senate's Gang of Eight (from left, Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Bob Menendez, D-N.J.; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; and Michael Bennet, D-Colo.) has passed out of committee and is headed for the full Senate. But the fate of the issue in the House is less clear.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 29, 2013 8:47 am

Members of Congress are back in their home states this week for a Memorial Day recess. It's a chance to talk with constituents about what could become the year's biggest legislative story: the push on Capitol Hill to fix what Democrats and Republicans alike agree is a broken immigration system.

A bill proposed by the Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group of senators, to revamp the nation's immigration rules passed out of committee last week and will soon be brought before the Democratic-led Senate. Less clear, though, is where the issue is headed in the GOP-controlled House.

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It's All Politics
3:44 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

Fears Of Killing Immigration Bill Doomed Same-Sex Amendment

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. (center), listens to testimony during a hearing on the immigration bill on April 22.
Andrew Harnik The Washington Times/Landov

Originally published on Wed May 22, 2013 4:40 pm

After five marathon sessions debating 150 proposed amendments, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a landmark rewriting of the nation's immigration laws this week — and the bill emerged largely intact.

Three Republicans voted with the panel's 10 Democrats on Tuesday night to forward the bill to the full Senate. That strong showing followed a wrenching choice for Democrats on the committee: whether to risk shattering support for the bill by amending it to recognize equal rights for same-sex couples.

How It Played Out

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It's All Politics
3:13 am
Sat May 18, 2013

Immigration Bill Chugs Along, But Some See Deal-Breakers

The Senate Judiciary Committee meets to work on immigration legislation on May 9.
Michael Reynolds EPA/Landov

Originally published on Sat May 18, 2013 5:23 am

It's been a long slog already for the bipartisan immigration overhaul proposed by the Senate's Gang of Eight.

The legislation has been the target of more than 300 amendments during days of debate and votes by the Senate Judiciary Committee. But while the bill has largely held its own so far, its prospects for getting through Congress remain uncertain.

In Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy's view, the immigration overhaul is "moving very well."

"It's moving a lot faster than people said it would," says Leahy, a Vermont Democrat.

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Politics
2:49 am
Tue May 14, 2013

Lawmakers Call For Hearings On IRS Scandal

Originally published on Tue May 14, 2013 11:19 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This IRS scandal has given Republicans an unexpected opportunity to chide the Obama administration. And it comes as the GOP was resurrecting questions about how top Washington officials, including the president, handled the attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya last year.

NPR's David Welna has more on the latest political firestorm.

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Politics
6:10 am
Fri May 10, 2013

Immigration Bill Remains Largely Intact After 1st Hearing

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Let's get an update now on one of this year's major policy debates. There is an immigration bill under consideration. The law, if passed, has the potential to be a major success story for President Obama and for the bipartisan group of lawmakers who drafted it. Opponents of the bill have major concerns about how it treats people who came to the U.S. illegally, and also about how much the law would cost.

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It's All Politics
4:12 pm
Tue May 7, 2013

Congressional Hearings Put Renewed Focus On Benghazi Attack

Originally published on Tue May 7, 2013 8:56 pm

It has been nearly eight months since attacks on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

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NPR Story
2:29 am
Fri May 3, 2013

Gun Background Vote Causes Heat At Home For N.H. Sen. Ayotte

Originally published on Fri May 3, 2013 10:14 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

After any contentious debate in Washington, it's often interesting to see how a lawmaker is welcomed home, depending on how he or she voted. Some of the senators who voted down bipartisan gun control legislation last month are taking heat in the aftermath of December's mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the state of Connecticut. The bill would have expanded background checks, and the only New England senator who opposed it was New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte. NPR's David Welna traveled to her state and sent this report.

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U.S.
9:19 am
Tue April 30, 2013

Obama Answers Questions On Syria, Guantanamo, More

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 1:27 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Let's talk about President Obama's news conference this morning on the 100th day of his second term. NPR's David Welna has been listening in this morning. Hi, David.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: The president was immediately asked about the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

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Politics
3:46 am
Tue April 23, 2013

Boston Case Casts Shadow Over Senate Immigration Hearing

The Senate Judiciary Committee turned its attention back to the immigration overhaul proposal Monday, even as opponents began to use the Boston bombers' journey to the United States as a cautionary tale.

Politics
2:57 am
Wed April 10, 2013

Immigration Protesters Aim For Rally To Motivate Lawmakers

Originally published on Wed April 10, 2013 5:20 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now, here in Washington they are calling it the All-In for Citizenship rally. Tens of thousands of demonstrators are expected today on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. It's to be the biggest event yet in the push to revamp the nation's immigration laws. And congressional negotiators say they are close to unveiling a comprehensive immigration bill. NPR's David Welna tells us how close.

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It's All Politics
1:23 am
Mon April 8, 2013

Some Gun Control Opponents Cite Fear Of Government Tyranny

Hundreds of gun owners and enthusiasts attend a rally at the Connecticut Capitol in Hartford on Jan. 19.
Rick Hartford MCT/Landov

Originally published on Mon April 8, 2013 9:35 am

As the Senate returns from a two-week spring recess Monday, topping its agenda is legislation to try to curb the kind of gun violence that took the lives of 20 first-graders in Connecticut last December.

Recent polls show broad popular support for enhanced background checks and bans on military-style guns and ammunition. But many members of Congress side with gun-rights advocates who oppose such measures.

And those advocates are increasingly making the case that Americans need guns to fight government tyranny.

'A Fringe Idea' Goes Mainstream

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Same-Sex Marriage And The Supreme Court
5:32 am
Sat March 23, 2013

The Senators Who Oppose DOMA, Despite Having OK'd It

Supreme Court justices will hear arguments Tuesday on California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage. On Wednesday they'll hear arguments on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
Nicholas Kamm AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat March 23, 2013 10:53 am

The soul-searching over the Defense of Marriage Act went viral last week after Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, a social conservative and original co-sponsor of the 1996 bill, sought out CNN to say something no one saw coming.

Portman said he'd decided to oppose DOMA and support same-sex marriage, two years after learning his college-age son was gay.

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It's All Politics
3:14 am
Sat March 16, 2013

Ted Cruz: From Texas Underdog To Republican Up-And-Comer

Texas Republican Ted Cruz, then senator-elect, speaks to reporters before a freshman senators luncheon on Nov. 13.
Harry Hamburg AP

Originally published on Sat March 16, 2013 5:48 am

The keynote speaker at Saturday night's closing session of the Conservative Political Action Conference is a 42-year-old Texan who's been a U.S. senator since January.

In that short time, Tea Party Republican Ted Cruz has already made a mark — and in doing so, he's simply ignored a tradition of new senators being seen, not heard. Cruz's sharp elbows have some colleagues wincing and others hoping he'll run for president.

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It's All Politics
12:06 pm
Fri March 1, 2013

5 Dates To Watch In Budget Showdown

President Obama speaks to reporters Friday at the White House after he met with congressional leaders regarding the sequester. "Even with these cuts in place, folks all across this country will work hard to make sure that we keep the recovery going," said Obama. "But Washington sure isn't making it easy."
Charles Dharapak AP

Friday's deadline for President Obama to issue a sequestration order is neither the beginning nor the end of this year's budget battles in Washington. Here are five key moments to watch over the next seven months, and what's at stake in each:

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Politics
4:06 am
Thu February 28, 2013

Democrats Move To Reinstate Assault Weapons Ban

Originally published on Thu February 28, 2013 10:04 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

A hearing on Capitol Hill yesterday included tears, cheers and a recording of bursts of gunfire. It was all part of a new push by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to reinstate a ban on assault weapons, a ban that expired nearly a decade ago.

NPR's David Welna was there.

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It's All Politics
1:03 am
Thu February 21, 2013

Meet The Virginian Shaping The House GOP's Immigration Plan

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., checks his phone before a hearing on Capitol Hill in September.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 21, 2013 6:24 am

Comprehensive immigration reform seems to top everyone's legislative wish list this year, and bills are already taking shape in the White House and the Democratic-led Senate.

A bipartisan group of senators recently laid out a path to citizenship for millions living in the country unlawfully. Less clear is where the Republican-led House is headed on immigration.

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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
4:26 am
Tue February 5, 2013

In Minn., Obama Appeals For Movement On Gun Background Checks

Originally published on Tue February 5, 2013 11:47 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, on the same as that funeral, President Obama continued his push for tougher gun laws. He was talking yesterday in Minneapolis on a subject he is expected to address in next week's State of the Union speech.

NPR's David Welna reports.

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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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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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