The CNN Washington Bureau’s morning speed read of the top stories making news from around the country and the world. Click on the headlines for more.
CNN: Attorney General Eric Holder talks sequestration, defends voting rights
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that if the Justice Department were faced with budget cuts due to sequestration, he believes that he would be able to maintain public safety by shifting resources and that the federal prison system could operate "for months" if necessary. However, nearly all civil cases would have to be put on hold, he added during an extended interview with National Public Radio reporter Nina Totenberg.
CNN: Obama 'confident' GOP will relent on tax increases
With tax hikes and federal spending cuts only weeks away, President Barack Obama said he is 'optimistic' a deal will be met to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff and anticipates Republicans will not hold middle-class taxes 'hostage' in budget negotiations.
CNN: Priebus predicts 'granular' approach for party
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said while the party's committee is not an organization to recommend policy changes to Congress, he believes messaging plays an important role and anticipates a more 'granular' approach to presenting GOP policies.
CNN: Obama, Boehner speak by telephone after GOP counter-offer
House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama spoke on the phone Tuesday evening after House Republican leaders sent a new offer on a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff on Tuesday. "We sent the White House a counter-offer that would achieve tax and entitlement reform to solve our looming debt crisis and create more American jobs," Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker Boehner, told CNN.
CNN: 3 dead in Oregon mall shooting
Panicked customers rushed to the exits when a gunman opened fire Tuesday at a mall outside Portland, Oregon. Some people huddled behind store counters and hid behind racks of clothing. Three people were killed, including the shooter, said Lt. James Rhodes of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. The shooter died of a self-inflicted gunshot, he said. One person suffered a traumatic injury.
CNN Analysis: Why America's unions are losing power
Michigan has dealt a tremendous blow to unions, approving a right-to-work measure in the heart of organized labor's industrial stronghold. The new law - passed by legislators and signed hours later on Tuesday - not only signals a change in America's so-called Rust Belt, but is also the latest sign that the power of organized labor is shrinking in the United States.
CNN: Accrediting group puts FAMU on probation
Florida A&M University, under fire in the hazing death of a drum major and over its finances, was put on probation for one year by an accrediting agency, officials said Tuesday. The regional accrediting agency has expressed concerns about academic policies, student rights, the control of finances and the institutional environment, according to FAMU.
CNN: Owner of plane carrying Jenni Rivera linked to troubled businessman
Two civil lawsuits against the company that owns the private jet that crashed Sunday in northern Mexico - presumably killing music star Jenni Rivera - accuse the firm of lying about its links to a businessman convicted of falsifying maintenance records. Insurance firms QBE and Commerce & Industry Insurance Company filed suits this year seeking to rescind its contracts with aviation company Starwood Management because of alleged falsehoods.
CNN: North Korea carries out controversial rocket launch
North Korea surprised and angered the international community Wednesday by launching a long-range rocket that may have put an object in orbit. The secretive North Korean regime said the rocket had successfully blasted off from a space center on its west coast and claimed the satellite it was carrying had entered its intended orbit. The launch followed a botched attempt in April and came just days after Pyongyang suggested it could be delayed.
CNN Security Clearance: What will recognizing the opposition accomplish?
President Barack Obama on Tuesday recognized the leading Syrian opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the country's people, marking a "big step" in U.S. engagement with the nearly two-year-old crisis. "We've made a decision that the Syrian Opposition Coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime," Obama told ABC's Barbara Walters.
CNN: U.S. blacklists al-Nusra Front fighters in Syria
The U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions Tuesday on leaders of the jihadist al-Nusra Front in Syria, hours after the State Department moved to blacklist the rebel group as a foreign terror organization linked to al Qaeda in Iraq. The Treasury also sanctioned two armed militia groups that operate under the control of the Syrian government, Jaysh al-Sha'bi and Shabiha, it said.
CNN: Venezuela's Hugo Chavez emerges from 6 hours of surgery
Doctors in Havana, Cuba, completed a six-hour surgical procedure on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday evening in a televised address. The state-run Venezuelan Television's website said in a headline, "The operation was a success."
CNNMoney: Stocks: Waiting on the Fed
The Federal Reserve is back in the spotlight Wednesday as investors await its decision on whether to continue Operation Twist, a stimulus program that is set to end this month. Expectations are rising for the Fed to announce another round of bond-buying in place of the bond-swapping program, analysts at Wells Fargo Advisors say. U.S. stocks finished higher Tuesday on expectations for additional stimulus.
CNNMoney: Chinese firms go on U.S. spending spree
The local movie theater. The company that made your car's electric battery. The plane you're taking home for the holidays. All might be owned by China after a banner year for the acquisition of U.S.-based companies by Chinese investors. The value of these deals, once uncommon, hit a new high this year, according to data from Dealogic. So far in 2012, Chinese investors have spent $10.5 billion acquiring American companies, topping the previous annual record of $8.9 billion in 2007.
CNNMoney: U.S. oil prices could sink to $50
U.S. oil prices could sink to $50 a barrel at some point over the next two years, according to analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. But don't expect a corresponding drop in gas prices. Merrill analysts expect U.S. oil prices to still average about $90 a barrel over the same time period.
In case you missed it…
Professor Chung Min Lee speaks on the consequences of North Korea's rocket.