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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Politics
3:05 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 9:01 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
7:23 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 Wed December 18, 2013 12:31 am

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
3:23 am
Mon October 14, 2013

How The Debt Limit Became 'A Nuclear-Tipped Leverage Point'

Congress set a limit on how much debt the U.S. Treasury could accrue back in 1917.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed October 16, 2013 6:14 pm

Political battles over the debt limit have been around nearly as long as the law passed by Congress in 1917 that set a statutory limit for how much debt the Treasury could accrue.

Since then, Congress has had to increase that limit on more than 100 occasions — and 40 of those times, lawmakers have tried to tie strings to raising the debt ceiling. In the last few years, though, there's been a marked escalation in those demands.

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Politics
4:56 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 4:48 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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It's All Politics
5:21 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 10:56 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
2:56 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 10:47 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
5:14 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 7:48 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
3:03 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 8:24 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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It's All Politics
5:18 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 8:36 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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It's All Politics
5:52 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 8:48 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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It's All Politics
6:09 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

The Decades-Old Gun Ban That's Still On The Books

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department officer Jay Phillippi looks over a fully automatic Thompson machine gun that was turned in during a "Gifts for Guns" program in Compton, Calif., in 2005.
Chris Carlson AP

Originally published on Fri January 18, 2013 7:16 am

When President Obama laid out his proposals Wednesday to reduce gun violence, he included a call for Congress to ban "military-style assault weapons."

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It's All Politics
6:09 am
Sun January 13, 2013

Cabinet Picks Come As Democrats Push To Change Filibuster

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., left, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have talked about a deal to change the Senate's filibuster rules.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Sun January 13, 2013 2:25 pm

In recent weeks, President Obama has chosen Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., as his next secretary of state; former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., to head the Pentagon; counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to be CIA director; and his chief of staff, Jack Lew, to be the next Treasury secretary.

Each nomination will have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and they all could be stopped by a Senate filibuster — that is, the refusal by any one of 100 senators to let a matter come to a final vote.

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It's All Politics
5:28 am
Sat January 5, 2013

As The Capitol Turns: Little Has Changed In Congress' New Season

House Speaker John Boehner swears in the newly elected members of the 113th Congress on Thursday.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Sat January 5, 2013 9:59 am

This week saw both a frantic finale to the much-unloved 112th Congress and, hours later, the swearing in of the new 113th. The cast of lawmakers and their leaders is mostly unchanged. The same can be said for Capitol Hill's never-ending drama over taxes, deficits and spending.

What was arguably this week's most sensational congressional moment did not even take place in Washington. On Wednesday in Trenton, N.J., Republican Gov. Chris Christie blasted the GOP-led House for closing down the last Congress without even considering a Superstorm Sandy disaster relief bill.

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Politics
3:33 am
Mon December 31, 2012

After Fruitless Weekend, Congress Still Seeks Fiscal Deal

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, leaves the Senate chamber to caucus in the Capitol on Sunday.
Molly Riley AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 31, 2012 5:46 am

It is almost unimaginable that both the House and Senate would be in session on a Sunday evening on the penultimate day of the year. And yet, they both were, with lawmakers hoping it was not merely a big waste of time and effort.

A bipartisan push by Senate leaders over the weekend has so far failed to forge a deal to spare American wage earners from tax hikes and shield government programs from drastic cutbacks.

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It's All Politics
6:13 am
Sat December 29, 2012

Congressional Leaders Hopeful As Fiscal Cliff Deadline Nears

House Speaker John Boehner arrives at the White House on Friday for talks with President Obama and congressional leaders aimed at avoiding the "fiscal cliff."
Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat December 29, 2012 5:38 pm

Even though the top four congressional leaders left their White House meeting with the president separately and silently on Friday, they cast the hourlong encounter in a positive light back at the Capitol.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi described the tone of the discussion to head off across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts as "candid." An aide to House Speaker John Boehner put out a statement that noted that the group agreed the next step should be the Senate's — a tacit acknowledgement that Boehner is no longer the lead negotiator with President Obama.

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It's All Politics
5:39 pm
Mon December 17, 2012

Some Senators Show Willingness To Take On Gun Laws

Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, has an "A" rating from the NRA, but questions why anyone would need the kind of semi-automatic assault rifle used in the Newtown, Conn., killings.
Dave Martin AP

Originally published on Mon December 17, 2012 7:19 pm

As President Obama spoke to mourning families in Newtown, Conn., on Sunday night, he clearly seemed to suggest a need for tougher gun laws.

"Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard?" he said.

For Congress, the politics have been too hard.

The combination of a powerful gun owners' lobby in the form of the National Rifle Association and a loss of public support for gun control has stymied efforts in recent years to tighten gun laws.

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It's All Politics
6:39 am
Sun December 16, 2012

Parting Advice From The Senators Leaving Congress

Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun December 16, 2012 9:11 am

The United States is now just over two weeks away from a plunge over the "fiscal cliff" — that is, unless Congress can agree on a deal to prevent automatic tax hikes and spending cuts in the new year. But once again, Congress seems headed for the brink.

That's been happening more and more in recent years. And it was noted sadly by a string of retiring senators as they were bidding their colleagues farewell this past week.

Daniel Akaka

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It's All Politics
5:19 am
Sat December 15, 2012

Democrats Dig In Their Heels On Entitlement Cuts

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Democrats aren't going to throw America's seniors over the fiscal cliff to give a tax cut to the wealthiest.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Sun December 16, 2012 1:43 pm

Congress has barely two weeks to agree on a deficit-cutting deal to keep the nation from going over the "fiscal cliff" in the new year. The problem is that right now there is no such deal to agree on.

Republicans reject the higher tax rates for top incomes that President Obama demands. And they also insist on more austere entitlement programs, which has Democrats digging in their heels.

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It's All Politics
3:20 am
Sun December 2, 2012

The 3 Unofficial GOP Rules That Are Making A Deficit Deal Even Harder

House Speaker John Boehner takes questions during a news conference Friday on Capitol Hill.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Sun December 2, 2012 7:40 pm

Making an already head-splittingly difficult deal on the fiscal cliff even harder to resolve is a set of three rules by which the Republicans who run the House play.

These are not official regulations; they're more shibboleths that House GOP leaders have adopted in recent years. And those rules are leaving House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, little room to maneuver as lawmakers try to avoid a set of tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect at the end of the year.

1. "The majority of the majority"

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It's All Politics
3:23 am
Thu November 22, 2012

Before The Showdown: The Long Road To The Fiscal Cliff

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., prepares to announce a debt ceiling deal in July 2011. That deal laid the foundation for the across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect on New Year's Day, 2013.
Harry Hamburg AP

Originally published on Thu November 22, 2012 4:45 am

New Year's Day typically inspires hope and new beginnings. But this next one may be cause for trepidation. Tax cuts for all income levels expire on Jan. 1, 2013, and most federal programs will face a 10 percent haircut — because Congress failed to agree on a deficit-reduction plan.

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Economy
5:23 am
Sat November 17, 2012

Solving Fiscal Cliff Math Might Come Down To Two

President Obama reaches to shake hands with House Speaker John Boehner, during a meeting Friday at the White House to discuss the deficit and economy.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Sat November 17, 2012 1:54 pm

Fresh off his re-election, a politically fortified President Obama summoned the top four congressional leaders to the White House on Friday for the first of what could be many rounds of talks for a deal to avert fiscal calamity.

The meeting was part of the opening moves to keep the nation from sailing over the so-called "fiscal cliff" — those across-the-board tax hikes and deep spending cuts set to kick in at year's end.

In welcoming the quartet of lawmakers, Obama struck a conciliatory note.

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It's All Politics
5:59 pm
Fri October 12, 2012

Bachmann Faces Competitive Re-Election Bid In Minnesota

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., speaks during the Family Research Council Action Values Voter Summit last month in Washington.
Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri October 12, 2012 6:41 pm

More than a year after winning Iowa's Straw Poll for the GOP presidential nomination, and more than nine months after dropping out of that race, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is back on the campaign trail.

This time she's after a fourth term representing Minnesota's 6th Congressional District, and Bachmann's campaign is running into stiff competition.

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Solve This
3:21 am
Fri October 5, 2012

Romney, Obama Far Apart On Closing Budget Gap

President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney finish their debate at the University of Denver on Wednesday.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri October 5, 2012 5:33 am

Here's one thing President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney could agree on during their first debate this week: Something has to be done about the enormous gap between what the federal government collects in taxes and what it spends.

But the two men fundamentally disagree on what to do about that budget deficit.

The Problem

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It's All Politics
4:24 pm
Fri September 28, 2012

In Blue-Leaning Connecticut, Tight Senate Race Has Democrat On Offense

Linda McMahon (center) visits a senior center in Naugatuck, Conn., this month.
Jessica Hill AP

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 7:24 pm

It might seem counterintuitive, but the man running against Republican Linda McMahon in her second attempt at becoming Connecticut's first female senator wants this race to be all about women.

Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy released an ad this week, hammering McMahon's stance on women's health and reminding voters of McMahon's former role as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment.

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Election 2012
6:19 pm
Thu September 20, 2012

Parties Debate Meaning, Value Of 'Redistribution'

Mitt Romney speaks in Miami on Wednesday.
J Pat Carter AP

Cuban-Americans know a thing or two about what can happen when a government seizes wealth and redistributes it, as Fidel Castro's regime did five decades ago in Cuba.

So Mitt Romney had an especially receptive audience Wednesday night at a rally of Cuban-Americans in Miami, when he launched his campaign's latest line of attack on President Obama.

"He said some years ago something which we're hearing about today on the Internet," Romney told the crowd. "He said that he believes in redistribution."

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Politics
6:21 am
Sun September 16, 2012

Congress Bets On Post-Election Edge, Delaying Action

Originally published on Sun September 16, 2012 8:36 am

Congress roared into town last week after a five-week break. Lawmakers will be heading back home just as quickly this week. They're expected to complete exactly one big item before pulling the plug on this briefest of sessions: a stopgap spending measure that keeps the government from shutting down during the next six months.

Members of both parties prefer tackling the mountain of unfinished business they leave behind only after the November election.

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NPR Story
5:32 am
Thu August 2, 2012

Back To The Debt Debacle: A Look At What's Changed

Originally published on Thu August 2, 2012 11:53 am

It was just a year ago that the House rejected a deal with President Obama and threatened to allow the U.S. to default on debt obligations coming due. The Tea Party refusal to raise the debt ceiling led to a downgrade in U.S. credit and a selloff in the markets. NPR's David Welna reports on what's changed since then and what hasn't.

Election 2012
5:59 am
Sun July 29, 2012

Does Sen. Thune Have The Right Stuff For Romney?

Mitt Romney gets a kick out of South Dakota Sen. John Thune's comments during a January rally in Dubuque, Iowa.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Mon July 30, 2012 11:47 am

Mike Lee is one of the most conservative members of the Senate. The freshman Utah Republican was elected with strong Tea Party backing and, like Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, he's a man of the West.

Mention the possibility that Thune, 51, might team up with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and Lee's eyes light up: "I love John," he says. "He's articulate, passionate, collegial. I mean ... I think he'd be great."

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Election 2012
6:08 pm
Wed July 18, 2012

Portman A Low-Key Possibility For GOP Running Mate

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, campaigns with Mitt Romney in Cincinnati on Feb. 20.
Mark Lyons Getty Images

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 3:34 pm

As the guessing game continues about Mitt Romney's choice of a running mate, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman invariably comes up as a top contender. And with a wealth of experience in Washington and beyond, Portman would be considered a safe pick to run for vice president on the Republican ticket.

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The Two-Way
6:41 pm
Tue July 17, 2012

House Spending Bill Would Slash $6 Billion From Federal Budget

House Republicans today released a preliminary spending bill that would slash more than six billion dollars from the budgets of the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education.The draft bill also bans NPR member stations from using federal funds to buy NPR programming.

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