David Welna

David Welna is NPR's congressional correspondent.

Serving in this role since the final days of the Clinton administration and primarily following the Senate, Welna reports on many issues he covered earlier in his career reporting both inside and outside of the United States. In addition he's covered the September 11, 2001 attacks, the wars that followed, and the economic downturn and recession. Prior to this position, Welna covered the 2000 presidential election and the post-election vote count battle in Florida.

In mid-1998, after 15 years of reporting from abroad for NPR, Welna joined NPR's Chicago bureau. During that posting, he reported on a wide range of issues: changes in Midwestern agriculture that are putting pressures on small farmers, how foreign conflicts and economic crises affect people in the heartland, and efforts to improve public education. His background in Latin America informed his coverage of the saga of Elian Gonzalez both in Miami and Cuba.

Welna first filed stories for NPR as a freelancer in 1982, based in Buenos Aires. From there, and subsequently from Rio de Janeiro, he covered events throughout South America. In 1995, Welna became the chief of NPR's Mexico bureau.

Additionally, he has reported for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, The Financial Times, and The Times of London. Welna's photography has appeared in Esquire, The New York Times, The Paris Review, and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Covering a wide range of stories in Latin America, Welna chronicled the wrenching 1985 trial of Argentina's former military leaders who presided over the disappearance of tens of thousands of suspected dissidents. In Brazil, he visited a town in Sao Paulo state called Americana where former slaveholders from America relocated after the Civil War. Welna covered the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the mass exodus of Cubans who fled the island on rafts in 1994, the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, and the US intervention in Haiti to restore Jean Bertrand Aristide to Haiti's presidency.

Welna was honored with the 2011 Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for Distinguished Reporting of Congress, given by the National Press Foundation. In 1995, Welna he was awarded an Overseas Press Club award for his coverage of Haiti. During that same year he was chosen by the Latin American Studies Association to receive their annual award for distinguished coverage of Latin America. Welna was awarded a 1997 Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University. In 2002, Welna was elected by his colleagues to a two-year term as a member of the Executive Committee of the Congressional Radio-Television Correspondents' Galleries.

A native of Minnesota, Welna graduated magna cum laude from Carleton College in Northfield, MN, with a Bachelor of Arts and distinction in Latin American Studies. He speaks fluent Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

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U.S.
4:43 pm
Fri December 9, 2011

Congress Won't Recess To Block Obama Appointments

The U.S. Capitol is seen above in 2009 as senators worked late into the night on legislation. The light signifying that Congress is in session may remain on this holiday season as well, since House Republicans have said they will remain in a pro-forma session.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Sat December 10, 2011 5:45 am

Senate Republicans blocked confirmation votes on two of President Obama's most high-profile nominees this week — one for a seat on a federal appeals court, the other to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Traditionally, the end-of-the-year holidays have allowed presidents to bypass Congress and give such thwarted nominees recess appointments. But an angry President Obama is quickly leaning that this might not be the case this year.

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Politics
4:06 am
Wed December 7, 2011

How Payroll Tax Cut Affects Social Security's Future

President Obama put Congress on notice Tuesday in a speech in Osawatomie, Kan.

He said that unless a temporary payroll tax cut is extended this month, 160 million Americans would see their taxes go up next year by an average of $1,000. But there's concern on both sides of the political aisle that the payroll tax holiday might be undermining the solvency of Social Security.

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Politics
3:09 pm
Fri November 25, 2011

Even Lawmakers Ask: Does Anyone Like Congress?

A dark cloud passes over the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Many lawmakers fear that Congress' already low approval rating will sink even further after the failure of the supercommittee.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Fri November 25, 2011 3:55 pm

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Governing
4:08 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

GOP Supercommittee Members Consider Tax Increase

Grover Norquist, president of the taxpayer advocacy group Americans for Tax Reform
Haraz N. Ghanbari AP

The congressional deficit-reduction supercommittee must agree before Thanksgiving to slice more than $1 trillion from projected deficits, or that money will be cut automatically from future budgets.

The fundamental divide between the panel's six Democrats and six Republicans has been over whether tax revenues should come into play. And with less than a week to go before the deadline, some Republicans are considering new tax revenue. But even the hint of compromise on that issue is dividing Republicans on Capitol Hill.

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Politics
11:01 pm
Tue November 15, 2011

Keynes' Consuming Ideas On Economic Intervention

The ideas of John Maynard Keynes, seen here around 1940, had great influence over the economic policies that followed the Great Depression and World War II.
Walter Stoneman Getty Images

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Politics
4:18 am
Sun November 13, 2011

Senate Democrats Challenge Defense Of Marriage Act

What Congress does, sometimes it later tries to undo. That's what happened a few days ago, when the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a measure repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.

Under DOMA, the federal government is bound to recognize only those marriages between a man and a woman. When the law passed 15 years ago, not one state recognized same-sex marriage. Six do so now, as well as the District of Columbia. But the effort to overturn DOMA faces stiff resistance from congressional Republicans.

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Politics
2:00 pm
Thu November 10, 2011

Senate Panel Votes To Repeal Marriage Act

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, host: Fifteen years ago, Congress overwhelmingly approved the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. It said, while each state could decide how to define marriage, the federal government would only recognize the legal union of a man and a woman.

Since then, more than 130,000 same-sex couples have legally married in the U.S. and today, a congressional committee passed the very first measure to repeal DOMA. NPR's David Welna reports.

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Politics
3:41 am
Wed November 9, 2011

GOP Wants Pentagon Protected From Automatic Cuts

Originally published on Thu November 10, 2011 7:44 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Counting down, it is now exactly two weeks before the clock runs out for Congress's supercommittee. If its six Democrats and six Republicans fail to reduce deficits by more than a trillion dollars, automatic spending cuts will kick in. Under this process, known as sequestration, the law would require half the cuts to come from defense spending. NPR's David Welna reports.

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Politics
3:00 am
Wed October 26, 2011

Supercommittee Reconvenes On Deficit Reductions

The deficit-cutting supercommittee re-emerges Wednesday morning with its first public meeting in more than a month. The group is charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions by late November. If it fails, automatic, across-the-board cuts follow.

Job 1: Careers That Shaped The GOP Candidates
2:17 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

Bachmann Once Prosecuted Tax Evaders For The IRS

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Rep. Michele Bachmann, shown speaking at a reception by the anti-tax group Iowans for Tax Relief, was once a prosecutor for the IRS. On the campaign trail, she's made that part of her resume a selling point. "I went to the inside to learn how they work, because I want to defeat them," she said in South Carolina.

Steve Pope Getty Images

Fifth in a series

Perhaps more than any other Republican running for president this year, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has railed against taxes. She says they're too high, and that the current tax code should be repealed.

But Bachmann had a somewhat surprising early career: going after tax evaders as a prosecutor for the Internal Revenue Service.

'Know Your Enemy'?

At times, the congresswoman and former state senator has seemed to deny that for nearly her entire professional life, she's been on the public payroll.

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Politics
11:01 pm
Sun October 16, 2011

Times Have Changed Since Reagan's 1986 Tax Reform

The clock is ticking down on Capitol Hill as a congressional super committee has only until Thanksgiving to agree on a plan shrinking deficits by more than a trillion dollars. The entire Congress then has to pass it by Christmas Eve or face huge across-the-board spending cuts.

Twenty-five years ago, another politically-divided Congress approved the biggest tax code overhaul in the nation's history. But much has changed since then.

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U.S.
11:01 pm
Sun October 9, 2011

Opposition Remains As Key Vote On Jobs Bill Nears

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President Obama holds up a copy of his jobs bill as he speaks at Eastfield College in Mesquite, Texas. Obama is challenging a divided Congress to unite behind the bill or get ready to be run "out of town" by angry voters.

Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Mon October 10, 2011 3:55 pm

It's been nearly two weeks since President Obama urged a crowd of supporters in Denver to turn up the heat on lawmakers in Washington to pass his $447 billion jobs bill. So far on Capitol Hill, it's gone nowhere.

That could change Tuesday when the Senate holds a vote on taking up the legislation. But fierce Republican opposition both to the bill and how it's paid for leaves slim prospects of it going any further.

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Politics
11:01 pm
Wed October 5, 2011

Bipartisan Support For China Tariffs Ahead Of Vote

Originally published on Thu October 6, 2011 7:48 am

The debate on trade sanctions against China that has roiled the Senate all week comes to a head in a make-or-break vote Thursday. Earlier this week, 79 senators voted to take up the bill, which could slap punitive tariffs on imports from China, the largest U.S. trading partner.

The legislation has strong backing from Democrats and Republicans alike; they say it could boost American jobs by punishing China's efforts to keep its currency undervalued and its exports underpriced. Opponents warn that should the bill become law, it could touch off a devastating trade war.

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Politics
11:01 pm
Sun October 2, 2011

Debt Committee's Failsafe Might Already Be Undone

The debt reduction supercommittee had its first public meeting Tuesday. It would take at least seven of the supercommittee's politically divided members to approve any plan they come up with.

J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Tue October 4, 2011 6:19 am

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction — also known as the supercommittee — created by Congress this summer has just seven weeks to agree on a plan reducing projected deficits by more than a trillion dollars.

If that panel of six Democrats and six Republicans deadlocks, or if Congress rejects its work, by law automatic across-the-board budget cuts — half of them from defense spending — will be triggered. Already, talk is growing of undoing that trigger.

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U.S.
3:00 am
Tue September 27, 2011

Senate Deal To Avert Shutdown Goes To House

Originally published on Tue September 27, 2011 7:57 am

Transcript

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

STEVE INSKEEP, host: And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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NPR Story
3:00 am
Fri September 23, 2011

Sen. Alexander Gives Up Leadership Spot

The Senate leadership experienced a minor shakeup this week when Lamar Alexander announced he was giving up his number-three spot. He said he could accomplish more outside leadership than from within. NPR's David Welna explains why such an idea would have been considered outlandish, but not so much now in a highly polarized Senate.

Politics
3:00 am
Tue September 20, 2011

GOP Not Interest In Raising Taxes On Anyone

President Obama's deficit reduction plan is just a proposal unless Congress acts. Most Republicans don't like what they heard from the president about taxing the wealthy to shrink long-term deficits.

Politics
11:01 pm
Thu September 15, 2011

Lawmakers Seek Transparency From Supercommittee

The newly formed congressional supercommittee's 12 members are charged with finding more than $1 trillion in budget savings this fall. Their clout could attract more campaign contributions, and lawmakers are demanding greater accountability for the money the panel's members take in.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has a mixed voting record when it comes to campaign finance reform, but he is adamant about making the six Republicans and six Democrats on the deficit-reduction supercommittee more accountable.

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Politics
11:01 pm
Tue September 13, 2011

GOP Opposes Obama Call To Pay For Jobs With Taxes

Originally published on Wed September 14, 2011 2:21 pm

Republicans aren't exactly crazy about the public works spending President Obama proposes in his $447 billion jobs bill sent to Congress this week, but they are even less enamored with how the president wants to pay for it: by ending a slew of tax breaks for wealthy individuals and corporations.

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