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.

The congressional deficit-reduction supercommittee must agree before Thanksgiving to slice more than $1 trillion from projected deficits, or that money will be cut automatically from future budgets.

The fundamental divide between the panel's six Democrats and six Republicans has been over whether tax revenues should come into play. And with less than a week to go before the deadline, some Republicans are considering new tax revenue. But even the hint of compromise on that issue is dividing Republicans on Capitol Hill.

The last in a three-part series on thinkers who have had a lasting influence on economic policymakers. Other stories featured Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek.

What Congress does, sometimes it later tries to undo. That's what happened a few days ago, when the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a measure repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.

Under DOMA, the federal government is bound to recognize only those marriages between a man and a woman. When the law passed 15 years ago, not one state recognized same-sex marriage. Six do so now, as well as the District of Columbia. But the effort to overturn DOMA faces stiff resistance from congressional Republicans.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host: Fifteen years ago, Congress overwhelmingly approved the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. It said, while each state could decide how to define marriage, the federal government would only recognize the legal union of a man and a woman.

Since then, more than 130,000 same-sex couples have legally married in the U.S. and today, a congressional committee passed the very first measure to repeal DOMA. NPR's David Welna reports.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Counting down, it is now exactly two weeks before the clock runs out for Congress's supercommittee. If its six Democrats and six Republicans fail to reduce deficits by more than a trillion dollars, automatic spending cuts will kick in. Under this process, known as sequestration, the law would require half the cuts to come from defense spending. NPR's David Welna reports.

The 12-member supercommittee charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in budget cuts next month met publicly for the first time in six weeks Wednesday — and agreed on little more than the fact that time is indeed growing short for them to approve a deal. Co-chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., said a lot of hard work has been done to find common ground and agree on a balanced, bipartisan plan for deficit reduction. But, she added, "We're not there yet."

The deficit-cutting supercommittee re-emerges Wednesday morning with its first public meeting in more than a month. The group is charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions by late November. If it fails, automatic, across-the-board cuts follow.

Fifth in a series

Perhaps more than any other Republican running for president this year, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has railed against taxes. She says they're too high, and that the current tax code should be repealed.

But Bachmann had a somewhat surprising early career: going after tax evaders as a prosecutor for the Internal Revenue Service.

'Know Your Enemy'?

At times, the congresswoman and former state senator has seemed to deny that for nearly her entire professional life, she's been on the public payroll.

The clock is ticking down on Capitol Hill as a congressional super committee has only until Thanksgiving to agree on a plan shrinking deficits by more than a trillion dollars. The entire Congress then has to pass it by Christmas Eve or face huge across-the-board spending cuts.

Twenty-five years ago, another politically-divided Congress approved the biggest tax code overhaul in the nation's history. But much has changed since then.

It's been nearly two weeks since President Obama urged a crowd of supporters in Denver to turn up the heat on lawmakers in Washington to pass his $447 billion jobs bill. So far on Capitol Hill, it's gone nowhere.

That could change Tuesday when the Senate holds a vote on taking up the legislation. But fierce Republican opposition both to the bill and how it's paid for leaves slim prospects of it going any further.

The debate on trade sanctions against China that has roiled the Senate all week comes to a head in a make-or-break vote Thursday. Earlier this week, 79 senators voted to take up the bill, which could slap punitive tariffs on imports from China, the largest U.S. trading partner.

The legislation has strong backing from Democrats and Republicans alike; they say it could boost American jobs by punishing China's efforts to keep its currency undervalued and its exports underpriced. Opponents warn that should the bill become law, it could touch off a devastating trade war.

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction — also known as the supercommittee — created by Congress this summer has just seven weeks to agree on a plan reducing projected deficits by more than a trillion dollars.

If that panel of six Democrats and six Republicans deadlocks, or if Congress rejects its work, by law automatic across-the-board budget cuts — half of them from defense spending — will be triggered. Already, talk is growing of undoing that trigger.

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DAVID GREENE, host: It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, host: And I'm Steve Inskeep.

A federal loan program to build more fuel-efficient cars became the latest budget flash point, with House Republicans wanting to raid the fund to help pay for FEMA disaster aid. Senate Democrats refused to go along. The standoff comes in a bill that would fund the entire government beyond next week.

President Obama's deficit reduction plan is just a proposal unless Congress acts. Most Republicans don't like what they heard from the president about taxing the wealthy to shrink long-term deficits.

The newly formed congressional supercommittee's 12 members are charged with finding more than $1 trillion in budget savings this fall. Their clout could attract more campaign contributions, and lawmakers are demanding greater accountability for the money the panel's members take in.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has a mixed voting record when it comes to campaign finance reform, but he is adamant about making the six Republicans and six Democrats on the deficit-reduction supercommittee more accountable.

Republicans aren't exactly crazy about the public works spending President Obama proposes in his $447 billion jobs bill sent to Congress this week, but they are even less enamored with how the president wants to pay for it: by ending a slew of tax breaks for wealthy individuals and corporations.

President Obama will be addressing a house deeply divided when he goes before a joint session of Congress on Thursday night. Many of his fellow Democrats are hoping to hear a speech filled with bold proposals to rally a dispirited nation.

"I hope the president keeps his fighting spirit that he displayed on Labor Day, where it was really clear that he is fighting for the middle class and jobs," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). "If he continues with that spirit and lays out a plan on how to get there, I think it'll be very, very riveting."

When lawmakers return to Capitol Hill next week, congressional debate is expected to pivot from debt and deficits to the nation's No. 1 concern: jobs.

President Obama will present his plan to boost employment next Thursday before a joint session of Congress. But the Republicans who run the House have their own ideas about what's needed for more jobs — and they've set their sights on what they call job-destroying regulations.

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