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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4:27pm

Mon January 6, 2014
Politics

Senate Confirms Janet Yellen As Federal Reserve Chair

Originally published on Mon January 6, 2014 7:11 pm

The Senate returned from its two-week holiday break on Monday. Senators confirmed the nomination of Janet Yellen as chair of the Federal Reserve Board and delayed a vote on an extension of unemployment insurance.

11:58am

Sun January 5, 2014
Politics

The Campaign For Jobless Benefits Begins In Congress

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., along with Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., is co-sponsoring the three-month extension of unemployment benefits up for a vote in Congress this week.
Win McNamee Getty Images

The Senate gets back to work Monday after a two-week holiday break. Just as Majority Leader Harry Reid promised, the first piece of legislation getting a vote will be a three-month extension of the long-term unemployment benefits that ran out a week ago for 1.3 million jobless Americans.

Though the Senate unemployment measure is bipartisan, it's not clear it has enough votes to beat a GOP filibuster. Regardless, Democrats are banging the drum on the issue as a midterm election year begins.

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5:25am

Mon December 30, 2013
Politics

If The NAFTA Vote Were Held Today, How Would It Fare?

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 7:42 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. It's been 20 years since President Bill Clinton signed into law a trade pact that wiped out many of the commercial barriers between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The North American Free Trade Agreement was controversial. Although Congress in the end approved NAFTA, it divided lawmakers, and on both sides of the aisle.

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3:29am

Tue December 24, 2013
Politics

Congress Is On Pace To Be The Least Productive Ever

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 7:24 am

The Capitol in Washington, D.C., seen on a cloudy day two weeks into the partial government shutdown.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

We're only at halftime for the 113th Congress, but if current trends hold, it's well on track to being the least productive lawmaking effort in the nation's history.

During this Congress' first yearlong session, just 58 bills became law — and many that did were about naming post offices or transferring federal lands. In fact, the most memorable act of Congress this year may well have been its failure to act in time to avoid a government shutdown.

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11:55am

Sun December 22, 2013
Politics

Pension Cut Angers Senate's Staunchest Military Supporters

Originally published on Sun December 22, 2013 2:33 pm

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., left, is urging her Senate colleagues to change the budget proposal that cuts retirement benefits for current and future military retirees.
Susan Walsh AP

In the two-year, $2 trillion budget deal that cleared the Senate last week, one item, worth just one-sixth of 1 percent of that total, was the reason many senators said they voted against it.

That item would produce some $6 billion in savings by shaving a percentage point off annual cost-of-living adjustments, and it would apply only to military pensions. Not all military pensions — just the retirement paid to veterans younger than 62.

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5:17pm

Mon December 16, 2013
Politics

Budget Deal Faces Key Vote In Senate

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 8:06 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Before leaving Washington last week for the holidays, the House overwhelmingly passed a compromised budget deal. It's meant to stave off a government shutdown for two years. But there's a catch. The Senate has to approve it and passage there is still uncertain. Unlike House Republicans, the Senate's GOP minority has shown little enthusiasm for the deal and may try to block it with a filibuster.

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7:23am

Sat December 14, 2013
Politics

Senate Takes a Break After 48-Hour Debate

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 12:31 am

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky heads to the Senate floor to vote on Friday.
Susan Walsh AP

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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4:29pm

Tue December 10, 2013
Politics

After Rules Change, Senate Democrats Pushes Forward With Nominees

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 12:30 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

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7:00pm

Thu December 5, 2013
Politics

To Fix Social Security, Some Democrats Want To Lift Wage Cap

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 7:39 pm

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D- Mass., listens to testimony during a Banking Committee hearing on Nov. 12. In a Senate floor speech on Social Security last month, Warren said, "With some modest adjustments, we can keep the system solvent for many more years, and we could even increase benefits."
Jacquelyn Martin AP

For the past three years, there's been a shortfall in the payroll taxes collected for Social Security. And as more baby boomers join the ranks of the 57 million people already receiving benefits, that deficit is bound to keep growing.

At the same time, the overall share of wages being taxed for Social Security is shrinking as the higher wages that are exempt have soared. The Social Security Board of Trustees predicts a nearly $3 trillion trust fund built up over decades will vanish within 20 years.

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5:10am

Fri November 29, 2013
Politics

Tax Break For Mass-Transit Commutes May Soon Be Slashed

Originally published on Fri November 29, 2013 3:57 pm

Commuters wait on the platform as a Metro-North train arrives in Bridgeport, Conn.
Craig Ruttle AP

Unless Congress acts quickly, taking mass transit to work is about to get more expensive for some people.

For the past four years, public transportation users and people who drive their cars to work and pay for parking have been able set aside up to $245 a month in wages tax free if they're used for commuting costs or workplace parking.

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