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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3:08am

Wed December 19, 2012
Politics

Capitol Hill Reaction To Gun Mayhem Varies

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 3:44 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.

Even before the events of the last few days, Congress had a busy agenda. Lawmakers are negotiating over taxes and spending that could affect the economy in the year ahead, not to mention almost every part of the federal government and the take-home pay for millions of Americans.

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3:39pm

Mon December 17, 2012
It's All Politics

Some Senators Show Willingness To Take On Gun Laws

Originally published on Mon December 17, 2012 5:19 pm

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

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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4:39am

Sun December 16, 2012
It's All Politics

Parting Advice From The Senators Leaving Congress

Originally published on Sun December 16, 2012 7:11 am

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

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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3:19am

Sat December 15, 2012
It's All Politics

Democrats Dig In Their Heels On Entitlement Cuts

Originally published on Sun December 16, 2012 11:43 am

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

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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1:20am

Sun December 2, 2012
It's All Politics

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

Originally published on Sun December 2, 2012 5:40 pm

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

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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1:23am

Thu November 22, 2012
It's All Politics

Before The Showdown: The Long Road To The Fiscal Cliff

Originally published on Thu November 22, 2012 2:45 am

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

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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3:23am

Sat November 17, 2012
Economy

Solving Fiscal Cliff Math Might Come Down To Two

Originally published on Sat November 17, 2012 11:54 am

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

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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3:37am

Wed November 14, 2012
Politics

Congress' Lame Duck Session Could Be Memorable

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 6:06 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Congress is beginning a busy post-election session. Lawmakers have weeks to prevent higher taxes and spending cuts due to take effect at the end of the year. Then there are hearings on the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya and the scandal over the affair that ended the career of CIA Chief David Petraeus. Here's NPR's David Welna.

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3:59pm

Fri October 12, 2012
It's All Politics

Bachmann Faces Competitive Re-Election Bid In Minnesota

Originally published on Fri October 12, 2012 4:41 pm

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

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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1:21am

Fri October 5, 2012
Solve This

Romney, Obama Far Apart On Closing Budget Gap

Originally published on Fri October 5, 2012 3:33 am

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

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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2:24pm

Fri September 28, 2012
It's All Politics

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

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 5:24 pm

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

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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3:28pm

Thu September 20, 2012
Election 2012

Parties Debating Meaning, Value Of 'Redistribution'

Originally published on Thu September 20, 2012 4:19 pm

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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4:21am

Sun September 16, 2012
Politics

Congress Bets On Post-Election Edge, Delaying Action

Originally published on Sun September 16, 2012 6:36 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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4:12am

Fri September 7, 2012
Election 2012

Thousands Of Shut-Outs Watch Obama Speech On TV

Originally published on Fri September 7, 2012 8:15 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Speaking to the Democratic Convention last night, President Obama spoke a line that played off a famous speech by John F. Kennedy. Kennedy said people should ask what they can do for their country.

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3:32am

Thu August 2, 2012
Politics

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

Originally published on Thu August 2, 2012 9:53 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.

3:59am

Sun July 29, 2012
Election 2012

Does Sen. Thune Have The Right Stuff For Romney?

Originally published on Mon July 30, 2012 9:47 am

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

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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3:56pm

Wed July 18, 2012
Election 2012

Portman A Low-Key Possibility For GOP Running Mate

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 1:34 pm

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

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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4:41pm

Tue July 17, 2012
The Two-Way

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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2:48am

Tue July 17, 2012
Politics

Democrats Efforts To Reveal GOP Donors Stymied

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 10:17 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Once again, a push by Democrats to force outside campaign spending groups to reveal their big hidden donors has been stymied. Last night for the second time, Senate Republicans closed ranks and blocked legislation on what's known as the Disclose Act. And as it happens, that legislation would've affected groups that are a key source of spending this year, favoring Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. NPR's David Welna explains.

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1:17am

Fri July 13, 2012
Presidential Race

Why Would Romney Bury Treasure In Bermuda?

Originally published on Fri July 13, 2012 9:04 am

The Thistle House in Hamilton, Bermuda, is listed as the address of Mitt Romney's Bermuda corporation.
David Welna NPR

New questions about Mitt Romney's overseas investments have dogged the GOP presidential contender all week. Many arose from a report in the latest issue of Vanity Fair. It describes how the day before Romney was sworn in as governor of Massachusetts, he put a corporation he'd set up in Bermuda in a blind trust held by his wife, Ann. Romney insists he did nothing wrong.

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