Ailsa Chang

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who covers Congress for NPR. She landed in public radio after spending six years as a lawyer.

Since joining NPR in 2012, Chang has covered battles over immigration, the healthcare law, gun control and White House appointments. She crisscrossed the country in the months before the Republican takeover of the Senate, bringing stories about Washington from the Deep South, Southwest and New England.

Chang started out as a radio reporter in 2009, and has since earned a string of national awards for her work. In 2012, she was honored with the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton for her investigation on the New York City Police Department's "stop-and-frisk" policy and allegations of unlawful marijuana arrests by officers. The series also earned honors from Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Society of Professional Journalists.

She was also the recipient of the Daniel Schorr Journalism Award, a National Headliner Award, and an honor from Investigative Reporters and Editors for her investigation on how Detroit's broken public defender system leaves lawyers with insufficient resources to effectively represent their clients.

In 2011, the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters Association named Chang as the winner of the Art Athens Award for General Excellence in Individual Reporting for radio.

The former lawyer served as a law clerk to Judge John T. Noonan, Jr. on the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco.

Chang graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University where she received her bachelor's degree.

She earned her law degree with distinction from Stanford Law School, where she won the Irving Hellman, Jr. Special Award for the best piece written by a student in the Stanford Law Review in 2001.

Chang was also a Fulbright Scholar at Oxford University, where she received a master's degree in media law. And she has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

Prior to coming to NPR, Chang was an investigative reporter at NPR member station WNYC from 2009 to 2012 in New York City, focusing on criminal justice and legal affairs. She was a Kroc fellow at NPR from 2008 to 2009, as well as a reporter and producer for NPR member station KQED in San Francisco.

Chang grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area.



Tue June 24, 2014

Addressing Border Crisis, Politicians Find Invitation In Misperception

Originally published on Tue June 24, 2014 7:14 pm

The House Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing Tuesday to address the influx of unaccompanied immigrant children from Central America. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson spoke at the proceedings, saying the situation at the border was "urgent."

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Fri June 20, 2014

GOP: McCarthy Voted Majority Leader; Scalise Chosen As Whip

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 7:29 am



House Republicans have elected a new majority leader. As expected, Kevin McCarthy of California, currently the third-ranked Republican in the House, easily prevailed. And Steve Scalise of Louisiana won the fight to replace McCarthy as majority whip. The leadership shuffle followed last week's unexpected primary defeat of the previous majority leader, Eric Cantor. NPR's Ailsa Chang takes a look at the frenzied, 10-day contest to fill the newly vacated positions.

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Thu May 29, 2014

Old Senate Tradition Lies Behind Controversial Judge's Nomination

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 10:56 am

There's an idea in the Senate that it's still a chamber operating on mutual respect and goodwill between colleagues. That's why venerable traditions like "blue slips" — slips of paper senators can use to block any White House choice for judgeships in their home state — carry over today.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

As President Obama continues to take heat for nominating to the federal bench a judge who once wanted to keep the Confederate emblem on the Georgia state flag, the White House says what's partly to blame for the choice is an old Senate tradition.

It turns out that tradition — which gives virtual veto power over judicial nominations to home state senators — helps explain why almost all the judicial vacancies without nominees are now in states with Republican senators.

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Thu May 22, 2014
It's All Politics

Sen. Isakson: Boggs Fight Won't Break White House Deal

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., speaks during a May 2013 Senate Finance Committee hearing.
Charles Dharapak AP

If the judicial nomination of Michael Boggs gets derailed, at least one of Georgia's senators says it won't unravel a deal the two senators entered with the White House to select seven nominees for the federal bench in Georgia.

"The deal was we agreed on seven nominees for seven judicial appointments and asked for all of them to get a hearing at the same time, and that was the deal," said Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia. "Everybody lived up to what they said."

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Tue May 13, 2014

Obama Judicial Nominee Gets A Hostile Reception From Democrats

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 7:26 pm



One of President Obama's most controversial picks for the federal bench faced a barrage of hostile questions from Democrats, during his confirmation hearing today. Michael Boggs is a state judge in Georgia. He was nominated to the federal district court as the result of a deal between the White House and Georgia's two Republican senators.

As NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee spent the morning hammering away at Boggs' conservative record.

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Tue May 13, 2014

Election-Year Politics Dooms Energy Bill, Averts Pipeline Vote

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 12:23 pm

Pipefitters work on construction of the Keystone XL pipeline's southern portion outside Tulsa, Okla., in January.
PR Newswire

As expected, an energy efficiency bill failed in the Senate on Monday, which makes a separate Senate vote on the Keystone XL oil pipeline unlikely before the November election.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had made a Keystone vote contingent upon passage of the energy efficiency bill, and letting one doom the other may have temporarily gotten him out of a bind.

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Thu May 8, 2014

Women On Capitol Hill Reach Across Party Lines To Get Things Done

Originally published on Thu May 8, 2014 4:51 pm

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., started what she calls power workshops for women in the Senate years ago.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

There's a long-held assumption that women are more likely than men to collaborate. As the number of women in Congress has increased, however, so has the partisanship and gridlock. So does a woman's touch actually help on Capitol Hill?

There's a lot of academic research that supports the idea that women are better at building bipartisan coalitions. Studies have found that women in Congress not only sponsor more bills but also collect more co-sponsors for those bills.

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Fri April 18, 2014

Hey, Superheroes On The National Mall: Any Advice For Congress?

Originally published on Fri April 18, 2014 7:13 pm

People arrive on the National Mall Friday dressed as comic book characters during the kickoff of Awesome Con 2014 in Washington, D.C.
Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Hundreds of people gathered on the National Mall Friday to see if they could break the Guinness World Record for the largest group dressed as comic book characters ever assembled.

It was the kickoff to Awesome Con 2014, a comic book convention that will take place in Washington, D.C., this weekend. In the end, the group came up short by several hundred people to break the world record.

But with so much superhero power concentrated next to the U.S. Capitol, NPR had to ask: Did the caped figures have any advice for Congress?

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Thu April 3, 2014

Mega-Donor Opens Wallet On The Hill To Kill Online Gambling

Originally published on Thu April 3, 2014 7:34 pm

Sheldon Adelson listens as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting on March 29 in Las Vegas. Several possible GOP presidential candidates gathered in Las Vegas as Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate, looks for a new favorite to help on the 2016 race for the White House.
Julie Jacobson AP

Now that the Supreme Court has eliminated the cap on the total amount one individual can give to candidates in each election, many are wondering how the very rich will respond.

If they spread their money across a wider swath of lawmakers, would that improve their chances of passing the legislation they want?

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson could be the first test case.

Expanding One's Reach Across Congress

Adelson is pushing a bill through Congress that would ban online gambling, and he has pledged he will spend "whatever it takes."

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Thu March 27, 2014
It's All Politics

As Obamacare Deadline Nears, Louisiana Gets Special Attention

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., speaks at an Oct. 2013 news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Landrieu's support for the Affordable Care Act is center stage in her campaign for a fourth Senate term.
Evan Vucci AP

With only four days left before the March 31 enrollment deadline, the White House is kicking into high gear trying to round up more Affordable Care Act enrollees – and Louisiana got special attention Thursday.

Why? Enrollment in the federal healthcare exchange there has lagged behind other states and, perhaps as important, citizens are getting bombarded with anti-ACA ads as Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu gears up for a tight race in November.

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Wed March 26, 2014

How To Meet Your Congressman

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 3:21 pm

The Capitol Dome is visible through the skylights of the new Capitol Visitor Center.
Susan Walsh AP

For all the campaigning and schmoozing members of Congress have to do, the truth is that the vast majority of Americans will never actually meet their lawmakers.

To be fair, not everyone wants to. But among those who do, there's serious competition for a lawmaker's time. So, how does an average citizen get access on Capitol Hill? The quick answer: It's not easy.

First, do the math. When it comes to face time with a member of Congress, there are 535 of them, and 314 million of you.

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Fri March 21, 2014

With Clock Ticking Down, Obama Polishes Judicial Legacy

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 6:22 pm

President Obama speaks in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in November 2013, shortly after the Senate voted 52-48 to weaken the power of the filibuster.
Evan Vucci AP

Republicans have a decent shot at taking control of the Senate in November, so President Obama could have as little as nine months left to shape the judiciary he will leave behind.

Senate Democrats positioned themselves to help with that endeavor when they eliminated the filibuster for most judicial nominees last November. But Republicans are still finding ways to slow things down.

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Thu March 6, 2014

Senate Blocks Military Sexual Assault Reforms

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 7:01 am



From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

After months of anticipation, the Senate has rejected a proposal to fundamentally change the way the military prosecutes sexual assault. Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand of New York needed 60 votes for a bill that would give military prosecutors, rather than commanders, final say over which sexual assault cases to prosecute. The legislation got 55 votes today.

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Thu February 27, 2014

FEMA Flood Insurance Law Faces Partial Repeal Over Premiums

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 10:38 am

Levees, like this one in New Orleans, must be certified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before appearing on federal flood maps. This change has resulted in higher flood insurance premiums in some areas.
Mario Tama Getty Images

The House is expected to vote as early as next week to partially repeal a 2012 law that overhauled the National Flood Insurance Program, which is tens of billions of dollars in debt.

The law was meant to make people living in flood-prone areas foot more of the insurance bill. But lawmakers didn't realize how many homeowners would be affected — or how hard they'd be hit.

You can find some of those homeowners in Bayou Gauche, about 30 miles west of New Orleans.

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Tue February 25, 2014

Democratic Sen. Landrieu Walks A Fine Line In Red Louisiana

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 8:06 am

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., has won some conservative supporters in her state, but her support for Obamacare is putting her re-election at risk.
Evan Vucci AP

If Democrats are going to keep their majority in the Senate, they'll need to hang on to a few critical seats they hold in conservative states.

Mary Landrieu of Louisiana has one of those, and like some of her colleagues up for re-election, her support of the Affordable Care Act could be the mountain to overcome this fall.

The question for Landrieu is: Will Louisiana voters define her by Obamacare, or judge her on the entire record she's built over nearly two decades as a senator?

For Some, Obamacare's A Dealbreaker

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Wed February 12, 2014

Senate Follows House Lead In Passing Debt Limit Raise

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 8:00 pm



From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

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Mon February 10, 2014

Does Congress Have Enough Political Will To Reduce The Debt?

Originally published on Tue February 11, 2014 10:24 am



When Congress reached a bipartisan budget deal last December, there was much fanfare about the compromises made by both parties. And immediately afterwards, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle began working to reverse one of the spending cuts - a small reduction in military pensions. One plan to restore those pensions is up for a vote today in the Senate. As NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, resistance against the small cut is calling into question whether Congress has the political will to reduce the long-term debt.

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Thu December 26, 2013
It's All Politics

Gun Control Lobby Takes Note Of Opposition's Success

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 10:13 pm

Supporters for gun rights gather outside the National Shooting Sports Foundation headquarters in Newtown, Conn., on March 28.
Jessica Hill AP

For gun control advocates hoping to see federal gun laws tighten after the shootings in Newtown, Conn., 2013 was a disheartening year. A narrow provision to expand background checks failed in the Senate.

For gun rights activists, the death of that legislation proved once more their single-issue intensity and decades-long grass-roots organizing were enough to prevail. Those are also valuable lessons for their opponents.

A 'Voice' For Lost Children

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Mon December 9, 2013

Will Obamacare Play Big In 2014? Keep An Eye On N.H. Senate Race

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 11:54 am

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., on Capitol Hill earlier this year.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

With a new White House push to promote the Affordable Care Act well underway, the question is whether an improved site and onslaught of positive talking points will be enough to bolster Senate Democrats facing tough races in 2014.

One re-election fight to watch is Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's in New Hampshire, where she's been taking heat for supporting the new health care law.

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Wed November 13, 2013
It's All Politics

Congressional Odd Couple Could Be Key To Any Budget Breakthrough

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 5:11 am

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., prepare to meet reporters on Capitol Hill on Oct. 17, after a breakfast meeting when the leaders of the bipartisan budget conference say they pledged to seek "common ground."
Win McNamee Getty Images

Twenty-nine lawmakers are supposed to come up with a long-term budget deal by mid-December. They meet again Wednesday around a conference table, led by two people who couldn't be more different: Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

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Mon November 11, 2013
It's All Politics

When Lobbyists Literally Write The Bill

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 5:52 pm

Lobbyists for Citigroup, one of the country's largest banks, offered lawmakers draft language for a bill that was obtained by New York Times and Mother Jones reporters. And 70 of the 85 lines in the final House bill reflected Citigroup's recommendations.
Mark Lennihan AP

It's taken for granted that lobbyists influence legislation. But perhaps less obvious is that they often write the actual bills — even word for word.

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Sun October 13, 2013
It's All Politics

Senate Gets A Dose Of Scolding With Its Morning Prayer

Originally published on Sun October 13, 2013 3:21 pm

Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black has been using his morning prayer to express his displeasure with political gridlock.
Drew Angerer AP

It's easy to tune out when the Senate goes through its morning rituals. The president pro tem calls the chamber to order; there's the Pledge of Allegiance. One morning could sound like any other.

Except for the past two weeks. Barry C. Black, the Senate chaplain, has been using his morning prayers to say exactly what he thinks is wrong with Washington lawmakers: "Remove from them that stubborn pride, which imagines itself to be above and beyond criticism."

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Sat October 5, 2013

What Furlough? GOP Lawmakers Choose How Much Burden To Bear

Originally published on Sat October 5, 2013 12:20 pm

A seagull walks on the edge of the reflecting pool near the Capitol on Friday.
Susan Walsh AP

As the government shutdown enters its fifth day, House Republicans and Senate Democrats continue to spar over who's being more unreasonable in this fight.

GOP members now find themselves on the defensive, as they face questions about forgoing pay and forgoing staff during the widespread furloughs.

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Mon September 30, 2013

Clock Keeps Ticking Toward Government Shutdown

Originally published on Mon September 30, 2013 7:44 am



This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

The brinksmanship is familiar, but nobody quite knows how the fight over a government shutdown will end.

GREENE: Congress has to pass a bill by midnight to keep the government in full operation. House Republicans demanded that all funds be denied to Obamacare in exchange for keeping the government running 45 days. The Senate overwhelmingly said no.

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Sat September 28, 2013

With Government Shutdown Looming, All Eyes Turn To House GOP

Originally published on Sat September 28, 2013 3:21 pm

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, center, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., left, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, express frustration on Friday after the Senate passed a bill to fund the government, but stripped it of language crafted by House Republicans to defund Obamacare.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

As expected, the Senate passed a bill Friday to keep the government funded through mid-November — without stripping any funding away from the president's health care law.

Now the action returns to the House, where Republicans earlier in the week tied the measure to defunding the Affordable Care Act. With the threat of a shutdown looming three days away, the question is now, what will the House do?

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Thu September 19, 2013

Republicans Push Back On Obama's D.C. Court Nominees

Originally published on Thu September 19, 2013 7:07 pm

President Obama nominates Robert Wilkins, Patricia Millett and Nina Pillard to fill the remaining vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on June 4.
Jim Watson AFP/Getty Images

If President Obama has his way, he will get to fill three more of the 11 slots on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the second most powerful court in the country. Obama already has filled one vacancy with Sri Srinivasan, who was confirmed back in May.

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved another nominee for the D.C. Circuit, law professor Cornelia "Nina" Pillard.

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Mon September 2, 2013

Syria Resolution Could Be A Hard Sell On Capitol Hill

Originally published on Mon September 2, 2013 6:41 pm

From left, Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., Rep. Robert Scott, D-Va., and Rep. Brad Schneider, D- ll., walk to a closed members-only briefing on Syria on Sunday.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Twenty-four hours after President Obama announced on Saturday that he'll wait for congressional authorization before launching strikes on Syria; members of Congress attended a classified briefing at the Capitol.

For days, most of the discontent among members of Congress has been about not being included in the deliberations on Syria, about not getting the chance to vote. Now that they've gotten their way, each member of Congress will have to go on the record.

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Wed August 28, 2013
It's All Politics

Many U.S. Lawmakers Want A Say On Taking Action In Syria

Originally published on Wed August 28, 2013 7:44 pm

Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., has gotten dozens of House members to sign on to a letter demanding that President Obama ask for the official blessing of Congress before attacking Syria.
Steve Helber AP

The Obama administration appears poised to attack Syria after concluding Bashar Assad's government used chemical weapons, but many members of Congress say they haven't been briefed enough about why military action is warranted.

Opinions about Syria are all over the map, with many lawmakers saying the president cannot proceed without first getting authorization from Congress.

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Fri August 16, 2013

In Rural N.C., New Voter ID Law Awakens Some Old Fears

Originally published on Fri August 16, 2013 8:51 pm

Opponents of North Carolina's new voter ID legislation wear tape over their mouths while sitting in the gallery of the House chamber of the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh, N.C., on April 24, where lawmakers debated new voter laws. On Monday, Gov. Pat McCrory signed a new law that requires a state-approved photo ID to vote and cuts early-voting opportunities.
Gerry Broome AP

This week, North Carolina's governor signed a new law requiring a state-approved photo ID to cast a vote in a polling place and shortening the period for early voting. The move comes just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which had required large parts of the state to get federal approval before changing voting laws.

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Wed July 24, 2013
NPR Story

Senate Passes Student Loan Legislation To Lower Interest Rates

Originally published on Thu July 25, 2013 9:31 am



From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

After a long wait, the Senate has finally passed student loan legislation. It would restore lower interest rates for undergraduates. Many of them saw their rates double on July 1st when the Senate missed its deadline.

As NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, the new measure closely resembles both what the president wanted and what the House has already passed.

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