NPR: 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.



Thu June 30, 2011

Is GOP Resolve On Taxes Showing Cracks?

Is Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, losing his legendary grip on GOP lawmakers?
Win McNamee Getty Images

Most Senate Republicans voted two weeks ago to end a tax break for ethanol. Some see that vote as a chink in the armor of anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist and the no-new-taxes pledge he's gotten almost every GOP lawmaker to take.

Senate Democrats are still crowing about the day when more than two-thirds of their GOP colleagues seemed to set aside their anti-tax increase orthodoxy.

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Sat June 25, 2011

House Votes On Libya Split Both Parties

It's 96 days now since President Obama ordered U.S. forces to begin airstrikes against the forces in Libya of Col. Moammar Gadhafi. That's six days longer than the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which says a president can carry out a military campaign without congressional authorization. Two measures were brought before the House of Representatives that might have provided such authorization, albeit with strings attached. Both failed. NPR's David Welna reports.


Wed June 22, 2011

In Congress, A Bipartisan Push For Afghan Drawdown

Originally published on Wed June 22, 2011 7:30 am

Growing numbers of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are balking both at the length of the war in Afghanistan and its cost.

Late last month, a few weeks after U.S. forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, the Republican-run House voted on a bipartisan amendment aimed at hastening an end to the war in Afghanistan. To the surprise of many, it fell just six votes shy of passing.

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) was one of 26 members of his party who joined nearly every Democrat in voting for the measure.

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Sat June 18, 2011

At 90 Days, Libya Conflict Has Washington Divided

Originally published on Sat June 18, 2011 5:54 pm

A Libyan raises his AK-47 and an American flag in the rebel-stronghold city of Benghazi.
Gianluigi Guercia AFP/Getty Images

The debate over what to do about Libya is coming to a head on Capitol Hill.

The U.S. military intervention in Libya reaches its 90th day on Sunday. That number is significant, because according to the 1973 War Powers Resolution, Congress must authorize American engagements in hostilities that surpass 90 days.

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Tue June 14, 2011

Ethanol Subsidies Survive Senate Vote, Splinter GOP

On Tuesday, the Senate blocked a measure that would have ended both federal subsidies and protective tariffs for corn-based ethanol fuel.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Costly subsidies for homegrown fuel won a vote of confidence Tuesday on Capitol Hill. In a key test vote, the Senate blocked a measure that would have immediately ended both federal subsidies and protective tariffs for corn-based ethanol fuel.

The outcome showed the continued clout of farm states. But it also showed that most Senate Republicans are willing to get rid of at least one tax break.

A 'Very Controversial Subject'

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Mon June 13, 2011

As Economy Sputters, Obama's Nominees Languish

Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Peter Diamond prepared to address the media last October after winning the 2010 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. Last week, more than a year after being nominated for a seat on the Fed, and facing Republican opposition, Diamond withdrew his nomination.
Darren McCollester Getty Images

President Obama's push to get the economy back on track has hit significant roadblocks in the institution where he once served: the U.S. Senate. True, it's still controlled by Democrats. But Republicans, by simply threatening a filibuster, can block presidential nominees for key economic posts — and that's exactly what they've done.

Three months ago, for example, the president announced he was nominating Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to be the next U.S. ambassador to China. Days later, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell convened a news conference at the Capitol.

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Thu June 9, 2011

Senate Agrees To Cut In Debit Card Fees

How much you pay when you swipe your debit card will now be capped by the Federal Reserve. That's despite an effort in the Senate to delay new regulations over how much banks can charge for debit card transactions. Both banks — which collect those so-called swipe fees — and retailers — who pay them — mounted an intense lobbying effort.


Fri June 3, 2011

House Approves Resolution Chiding Obama On Libya

The House voted Friday on two resolutions addressing concern that President Obama has not sought congressional approval for military operations in Libya. One sponsored by Speaker John Boehner says the president has not given Congress a compelling rationale for the operations. It was adopted. The other was not adopted: It was offered by Democrat Dennis Kucinich and would give the president 15 days to remove forces from Libya.


Tue May 31, 2011

House GOP Force Showdown Vote On Debt Ceiling

Congress is gearing up for another show vote.

Last week, Democrats in the Senate forced Republicans to vote on a House GOP proposal that would make controversial changes to Medicare. On Tuesday, the Republicans who run the House are forcing Democrats to vote on raising the debt ceiling without addressing the deficit spending that drove up the debt.

That vote, too, is bound to fail — which is precisely what Republicans want.

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Fri May 27, 2011
National Security

Patriot Act Extension Came Down To The Wire

Congress scrambled to renew three controversial provisions of the anti-terror Patriot Act that otherwise would have expired at midnight Thursday.

Minutes before that deadline, President Obama was awakened in France; there he ordered an automated signing into law of the four-year extension that lawmakers approved.

Things came right down to the deadline thanks largely to the stubborn resistance of one man: freshman Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

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Tue May 24, 2011

Netanyahu Ready For 'Painful Compromises' For Peace

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had lawmakers on Capitol Hill jumping to their feet repeatedly Tuesday to applaud him as he addressed a joint meeting of Congress. For the Israeli leader, it was a chance both to thank them for their unswerving support and to lay down a hard line on any new peace talks with the Palestinians.

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Wed May 18, 2011

Coburn's Departure Deals Blow To Deficit Talks

A bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of Six has been trying for months to strike a deal on deficit spending and the debt.

Now, that sextet may be over. On Tuesday night, Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn called it quits. Still unclear, though, is whether his departure proves fatal to a grand debt-reduction bargain between Republicans and Democrats.

An Impasse

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Sun May 15, 2011

Republicans Ready To Cut All But The Pentagon

"Cut spending!" has been Congressional Republicans' battle cry this year. They have indeed managed to cut far more in the budget battles than Democrats might have wanted, but when it comes to the biggest chunk of spending that lawmakers actually do have a say over, the Pentagon budget, it's a different story. NPR's David Welna reports.


Sat April 30, 2011

Rep. Tim Walz Vows A Hard Vote On The Debt Ceiling

Originally published on Sat April 30, 2011 10:33 am



This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

Many lawmakers, Republican or Democrat, might sooner take a salary cut than vote to raise the debt ceiling. But Tim Walz is not one of them. He's a third-term Democratic congressman from southern Minnesota, and the only member of Congress who has returned to the Treasury every salary increase he's received. Walz is also making no bones about his desire to lift the limit on the national debt.

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Tue April 26, 2011

Conservative Heavyweights Trade Jabs Over Taxes

Over the past month, a quarrel has broken out in public between two conservative heavyweights in Washington.

On one side is Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, who's looking for a grand compromise to bring down annual deficits. He says the solution may involve an increase in tax revenues.

On the other side is anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, who says Coburn is breaking a long-standing pledge not to raise taxes.

The 'Taxpayer Protection Pledge'

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Fri April 22, 2011

Rep. Meehan Defends Budget Vote To Constituents

Congress left town a week ago having settled one budget fight that keeps the government funded until October. But more epic battles are in store when lawmakers get back early next month. In the meantime, some are holding town hall meetings in their districts to hear from constituents and defend recent votes. NPR's David Welna went to the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania this week, where he found freshman GOP Rep. Pat Meehan doing five town halls in one day.


Thu April 14, 2011
The Federal Budget Crunch

Lawmakers Discover What's In Spending Deal

The deal congressional leaders struck last Friday funding the federal government for 24 weeks and cutting $38 billion in spending is being voted on Thursday in the House and possibly the Senate.

While the measure does chop spending, a few other things in it that have little to do with spending also get chopped, as lawmakers have been discovering.

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