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: With no deal and only hours to go, US economy heads toward 'fiscal cliff'
With only hours left Monday to avert what economists predict will be a one-two punch to the U.S. economy, Senate Democrats and Republicans were trying to negotiate a last-minute deal aimed at heading off a year-end combination of spending cuts and tax increase that could trigger a new recession.
CNN: Obama talks about 'worst day of my presidency,' goals for next term
President Barack Obama appeared on NBC's "Meet The Press" on Sunday, talking about the "fiscal cliff" negotiations and priorities for his administration in his second term. The president told host David Gregory that he was optimistic something will be worked out to keep tax rates from rising on Tuesday - but if not, his first piece of legislation for the next Congress will be a bill to reduce tax rates on most Americans.
CNN Poll: Clinton tops list of 2016 hopefuls
Hillary Clinton hasn't even stepped down yet as secretary of state and there's already constant speculation as to whether she'll run again for the White House. While no decision from her on any future bid for president is expected in 2013, expect speculation about her future political plans to intensify throughout the New Year.
CNN: Short-term agreement reached for farm legislation
Following increased pressure to pass farm legislation by the end of the year, Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow said Saturday that the House and Senate have developed a short-term farm bill extension to prevent dairy prices from soaring in the new year.
CNN: Hillary Clinton hospitalized after doctors discover blood clot
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was hospitalized Sunday after doctors discovered a blood clot during a follow-up exam related to a concussion she suffered this month, her spokesman said.
CNN: Woman accused of murder as a hate crime in NYC subway push death
A 31-year-old Bronx woman has been charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime in the death of a man shoved in front of a subway train, Queens prosecutors said Saturday.
CNN: Mom 'eternally grateful' as 2 missing boys return home to Georgia
A woman without hope when the weekend started, Theresa Nash snuggled with her two sons Ben and Henry in Atlanta on Sunday, overwhelmed at how quickly things had changed. Both boys hugged their favorite stuffed animals: Henry clutched a red hippo and Ben, a teddy bear in a blue T-shirt.
CNN: Charter bus skids on ice, kills nine in Oregon
A bus in northern Oregon skidded on ice, crashed through a guardrail and tumbled a couple hundred feet down an embankment on Sunday morning, killing nine people and injuring at least 26.
CNN: Envoy: 2013 could bring 100,000 deaths in Syria
The stench of the burnt bodies was so potent, Abu Jafar said, he could smell it from 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away. "It smells awful because the regime appears to have burnt so many bodies recently," the opposition activist said Sunday from the beleaguered city of Homs.
CNN: Amid unrest, African Union chief arrives in Central African Republic
The head of the African Union arrived in the Central African Republic Sunday as tensions mounted between the government and rebels there, an official said. Benin President Thomas Boni Yayi, who chairs the regional body, met with the Central African Republic's president, said Margaret Vogt, a U.N. special representative.
CNN: Battling cancer, Chavez suffers more complications
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is recovering from cancer surgery, has suffered "new complications," Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Sunday. "President Chavez's state of health continues to be delicate, with complications that are being treated in a process that is not without risks," he said.
CNN: Clashes erupt at Iraqi protest as sectarian tensions flare
At least five people were injured when bodyguards for a top Iraqi official opened fire on stone-throwing Sunni demonstrators Sunday, the country's interior ministry said. The clashes broke out after Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq arrived to address crowds protesting in a plaza in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi.
CNNMoney: What if there's no deal on fiscal cliff
With just one day until the new year, Congress and the White House have yet to agree on a way to avert the fiscal cliff. Practically speaking, they likely have a "grace period" of a couple of weeks to pass a bill that wards off the bulk of scheduled tax increases and spending cuts without causing too much damage. But there's no guarantee that they'd be able to forge an agreement quickly.
CNNMoney: Stocks brace for fiscal cliff reckoning
Can the stock market shake off yet another punt by Congress? It just might. For weeks, many have worried that no resolution to the fiscal cliff would lead to the kind of brutal sell-off that followed the voting down of the TARP bailout and the downgrade of America's credit rating.
CNNMoney: Why your paycheck is getting smaller, no matter what
For middle class Americans, there may be no escaping higher taxes, come January. President Obama is trying to push through legislation to keep broader middle class income taxes from rising by Monday night. But they may still have to pay at least 2% more in payroll taxes.
In case you missed it…
After Theresa Nash made a desperate plea on CNN for their safe return, Ben and Henry Cleary were found and returned home