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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2:41am

Wed November 9, 2011
Politics

GOP Wants Pentagon Protected From Automatic Cuts

Originally published on Thu November 10, 2011 6:44 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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2:00am

Thu October 27, 2011
Politics

Deficit-Cutting Supercommittee: 'We're Not There Yet'

The 12-member supercommittee charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in budget cuts next month met publicly for the first time in six weeks Wednesday — and agreed on little more than the fact that time is indeed growing short for them to approve a deal. Co-chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., said a lot of hard work has been done to find common ground and agree on a balanced, bipartisan plan for deficit reduction. But, she added, "We're not there yet."

1:17pm

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

Bachmann Once Prosecuted Tax Evaders For The IRS

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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10:01pm

Sun October 16, 2011
Politics

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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10:01pm

Sun October 9, 2011
U.S.

Opposition Remains As Key Vote On Jobs Bill Nears

Originally published on Mon October 10, 2011 2:55 pm

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

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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10:01pm

Wed October 5, 2011
Politics

Bipartisan Support For China Tariffs Ahead Of Vote

Originally published on Thu October 6, 2011 6:48 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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10:01pm

Sun October 2, 2011
Politics

Debt Committee's Failsafe Might Already Be Undone

Originally published on Tue October 4, 2011 5:19 am

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

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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2:00am

Tue September 27, 2011
U.S.

Senate Deal To Avert Shutdown Goes To House

Originally published on Tue September 27, 2011 6:57 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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2:00am

Fri September 23, 2011
NPR Story

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.

2:00am

Tue September 20, 2011
Politics

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.

10:01pm

Thu September 15, 2011
Politics

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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10:01pm

Tue September 13, 2011
Politics

GOP Opposes Obama Call To Pay For Jobs With Taxes

Originally published on Wed September 14, 2011 1:21 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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10:01pm

Wed September 7, 2011
Economy

How To Create More Jobs Divides Capitol Hill

President Obama will be addressing a house deeply divided when he goes before a joint session of Congress on Thursday night. Many of his fellow Democrats are hoping to hear a speech filled with bold proposals to rally a dispirited nation.

"I hope the president keeps his fighting spirit that he displayed on Labor Day, where it was really clear that he is fighting for the middle class and jobs," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). "If he continues with that spirit and lays out a plan on how to get there, I think it'll be very, very riveting."

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1:15pm

Thu September 1, 2011
Politics

In Jobs Debate, GOP Targets 'Regulatory Burdens'

Originally published on Thu September 1, 2011 4:50 pm

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told members of his party that the jobs crisis would be at the top of their agenda this fall.
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

When lawmakers return to Capitol Hill next week, congressional debate is expected to pivot from debt and deficits to the nation's No. 1 concern: jobs.

President Obama will present his plan to boost employment next Thursday before a joint session of Congress. But the Republicans who run the House have their own ideas about what's needed for more jobs — and they've set their sights on what they call job-destroying regulations.

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2:45am

Mon August 1, 2011
Politics

Path Ahead For Debt Legislation Remains Uncertain

After weeks of mounting anxiety and collapsed deals, Congressional leaders and President Obama reached an agreement Sunday night to end the debt ceiling crisis. Those leaders will attempt to sell that deal to fellow lawmakers Monday, and if all goes well, a bill increasing the debt ceiling by nearly a trillion dollars could await the president's signature Tuesday.

That's the day the Treasury Department had said the nation's first-ever default could occur if Congress failed to act.

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