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.

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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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.

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.

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."



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.

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.

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.

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?

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."

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.

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.

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.



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.

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.

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



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


And I'm Robert Siegel.



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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Senate Republicans have once again blocked President Obama's nominees. Despite a deal in July to let several of the president's picks go through, the rancor has returned with a fresh batch of appointments. Two nominations failed within less than an hour on Thursday, and Democrats may once again threaten to change Senate rules so Republicans can't easily derail another nomination.

The messy rollout of the online exchanges under the Affordable Care Act has provided fodder for Republicans determined to make Obamacare an issue in the 2014 elections.

A handful of Democratic incumbents in battleground states are among senators now calling for an extension of the open enrollment period, which could be a way to curry favor in relatively conservative states.

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."

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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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.

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?

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.

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.

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.