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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Now, here in Washington they are calling it the All-In for Citizenship rally. Tens of thousands of demonstrators are expected today on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. It's to be the biggest event yet in the push to revamp the nation's immigration laws. And congressional negotiators say they are close to unveiling a comprehensive immigration bill. NPR's David Welna tells us how close.

As the Senate returns from a two-week spring recess Monday, topping its agenda is legislation to try to curb the kind of gun violence that took the lives of 20 first-graders in Connecticut last December.

Recent polls show broad popular support for enhanced background checks and bans on military-style guns and ammunition. But many members of Congress side with gun-rights advocates who oppose such measures.

And those advocates are increasingly making the case that Americans need guns to fight government tyranny.

'A Fringe Idea' Goes Mainstream

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There were dozens of rallies across the nation yesterday, to support a cause that might be losing steam. It's the fight for new gun control laws. President Obama joined family members of recent gun victims at the White House to urge Congress to take action.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Right now, members of Congress are back home in their districts and many of them are holding events where they can hear from their constituents, so I want everybody who's listening to make yourself heard right now.

Amid GOP soul-searching over a dismal 2012 election, a consensus has emerged that Republicans must appeal better to Latino voters. The effort has even appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference, with a panel on immigration reform on Thursday morning.

Republican leaders have tapped Marco Rubio, a 41-year-old Cuban-American senator from Florida, to deliver the official GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night.

It's a chance for a party that has fared badly with both young and Hispanic voters to showcase a fast-rising, youthful Latino with a new stance on immigration.

The shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in December revived a national debate about gun violence. It's one that is emotional and often highly personal, and it's happening in places far from the halls of Congress. Earlier this week, President Obama was in Minneapolis advocating new limits on guns; no law or set of laws, he said, can keep children completely safe. NPR's David Welna was there for the visit and sent this reporter's notebook about the voices he encountered.

Minnesota has a Democratic governor, two Democratic senators, and Democrats control both houses of its Legislature. So it may have come as no surprise when President Obama went there earlier this week to rally support for his proposals to reduce gun violence.

But even in the politically blue state, there's considerable resistance to placing further restrictions on gun ownership.

During his visit to a Minneapolis police facility Monday, Obama urged Minnesotans to find common ground in curbing gun violence.

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President Obama took his case today for revamping the nation's gun laws to the frozen streets of Minneapolis, in the first of what will likely be a series of similar events in the coming weeks. The president urged voters to turn up the pressure on Congress and take action to curb gun violence. NPR's David Welna has our story from Minneapolis.

Marco Rubio has been the junior senator from Florida for barely two years, but he's already considered a likely 2016 presidential contender.

The 41-year-old Republican's political star rose still higher this week when he joined a bipartisan group of senators offering a path to citizenship to millions of unauthorized immigrants.

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And I'm Steve Inskeep. President Obama's nominee for defense secretary is a former senator. He is also a Republican.

MONTAGNE: But neither his party affiliation nor his former membership in the Senate club spared Chuck Hagel from almost eight hours of hard questions yesterday.

INSKEEP: At a Senate hearing, Democrats had many of those questions, and Republicans went on the attack. NPR's David Welna reports.

A bipartisan group of eight senators unveiled a plan to overhaul the nation's immigration laws on Monday.

The Senate picked up Tuesday exactly where it left off nearly three weeks ago. By a twist of the rules, the Senate chamber remains in its first legislative day of the 113th Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he's kept things at the starting point so that he and his fellow Democrats have the option of changing the rules on the filibuster by a simple majority vote.

"The Senate will take action to make this institution that we all love, the United States Senate, work more effectively," Reid said Tuesday. "We'll consider changes to the Senate rules."

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OK. It is not clear if Congress and the White House will figure out how to work together but they at least figured out how to eat a buffalo.

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After the inauguration, members of Congress welcomed the president to a lunch of bison tenderloin. Afterwards, some told reporters what they thought of the speech. Here's NPR's David Welna.

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When President Obama laid out his proposals Wednesday to reduce gun violence, he included a call for Congress to ban "military-style assault weapons."

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Congress can at least say it started the new year without blowing up the economy. The House approved a plan that eliminates scheduled higher taxes for most Americans and puts off spending cuts for now. President Obama praised its passage last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

It is almost unimaginable that both the House and Senate would be in session on a Sunday evening on the penultimate day of the year. And yet, they both were, with lawmakers hoping it was not merely a big waste of time and effort.

A bipartisan push by Senate leaders over the weekend has so far failed to forge a deal to spare American wage earners from tax hikes and shield government programs from drastic cutbacks.

Even though the top four congressional leaders left their White House meeting with the president separately and silently on Friday, they cast the hourlong encounter in a positive light back at the Capitol.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi described the tone of the discussion to head off across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts as "candid." An aide to House Speaker John Boehner put out a statement that noted that the group agreed the next step should be the Senate's — a tacit acknowledgement that Boehner is no longer the lead negotiator with President Obama.

So far there are no signs of a breakthrough in talks between Democrats and Republicans in Washington to stave off the tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect on New Year's Day. President Obama has summoned top congressional leaders for talks at the White House on Friday.

With days ticking down to the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts deadline, President Obama took his case to the American public again on Wednesday — and House Republicans were not happy about it. House Speaker John Boehner responded with a statement that barely lasted a minute as the House prepared to vote on competing plans to avert the tax hikes but which do not address the spending cuts.

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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.

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.

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.

Senator Jim DeMint on Thursday announced that he will not return to the new Congress, and instead will resign early next month. DeMint will instead lead the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

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And amid that budget debate, a wall of Republican opposition to a new United Nations treaty kept it from being ratified in the Senate. The treaty is aimed at promoting and protecting the rights of disabled people. And even though it was inspired by the Americans with Disabilities Act, Republicans argue that it would harm U.S. sovereignty and even interfere with home schooling. Here's NPR's David Welna.

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And we begin this hour with the nation's fiscal crisis. Congress and the White House have just 34 days to end the debate over revenue hikes and entitlement cuts and steer us clear of the fiscal cliff.

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I'm Melissa Block. And we begin this hour with talk of immigration reform. Dealing with the estimated 12 million immigrants now in the U.S. illegally has long been a priority, primarily of Democrats. Three weeks ago, Latinos voted overwhelmingly for President Obama. As NPR's David Welna reports, Senate Republicans weighed in today, unveiling legislation that would give some undocumented immigrants a path to legal status.

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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And I'm Audie Cornish. Three congressional hearings, two of them closed to the public, focused today on the September 11th attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans were killed in those attacks, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. As NPR's David Welna reports, the only open hearing today on Benghazi turned into a political slugfest.

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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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