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: McConnell: Debt debate 'starts today'
Hours after Congress sent a bill for the president's signature to avoid the fiscal cliff, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is already gearing up for the next showdown. The Kentucky Republican wrote in an op-ed that President Barack Obama should be prepared to "have a fight" over government spending and the debt limit in the coming weeks, adding that the tax debate is now a thing of the past with the new legislation.
CNN: Filibuster fight put off as reform negotiations continue
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has put off for another day a potentially ugly fight over filibuster reform, a Democratic leadership aide said Wednesday. The issue was set to come to a head Thursday when Reid was considering forcing a major change of Senate rules – over the objections of Republicans – that would have made it harder for GOP senators to filibuster beginning debate on measures they oppose or want to amend.
CNN Security Clearance: Tax deal delays Pentagon notification of possible furloughs
The Pentagon has delayed plans to notify up to 800,000 civilian workers about possible furloughs now that any big spending cuts under the fiscal cliff have been averted. The tax deal negotiated by the Senate and the White House and approved by Congress on Tuesday would defer substantial cuts in domestic spending, or sequester, for two months.
CNN: Republicans pledge to back Boehner, reversing earlier outrage
Certain Republican lawmakers said Wednesday they'll now vote for John Boehner's re-election as House Speaker, despite earlier offering uncertainty over whether they'd cast their vote for the top Republican.
CNN: Angry families of victims say they will boycott Colo. theater reopening
Relatives of nine people killed last summer at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater said an invitation to attend an event on the eve of the remodeled complex's reopening is "disgusting" and "wholly offensive to the memory of our loved ones." The Aurora Century 16 movie theater, where 12 people were killed and 58 were injured, is scheduled to reopen to the public January 18.
CNN: FBI gun background checks hit record highs
The FBI performed nearly 2.8 million background checks on people wanting to buy guns in December, a record month that capped a record year. The numbers from the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System on Wednesday did not show how many firearms buyers actually took home from federally licensed gun stores. Some purchasers may have bought more than one weapon.
CNN: After outcry over map of gun permit holders, newspaper hires armed guards
The newspaper that published an online, interactive map of handgun permit holders in two suburban New York counties hired armed guards to protect its office after negative backlash from the map publication, according to a local police report.
CNN: Sandy Hook students return to class for first time since Newtown shooting
Hundreds of Newtown students are returning to class for the first time since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. They won't be attending Sandy Hook Elementary, which police say remains part of the ongoing investigation into Adam Lanza, the gunman who also killed his mother before opening fire at the school. Students will instead travel to Chalk Hill Middle School in the nearby town of Monroe.
CNN: Pakistani officials: Suspected U.S. drone strikes kill 15, including a Taliban leader
Two suspected U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan's volatile tribal region left 15 people dead on Thursday, Pakistani intelligence officials said. Among the 11 killed in one strike in the province of South Waziristan was a Taliban commander named Mullah Nazir, also known as Maulvi Nazir Wazir, the officials said. The drone fired two missiles in the Sarkanda area of Birmil, killing Nazir, the officials said.
CNN: U.N.'s Syria death toll jumps dramatically to 60,000-plus
The overall death toll in devastated Syria has surpassed an estimated 60,000 people, the United Nations said Wednesday, a dramatic figure that could skyrocket as the civil war persists. To put it in perspective: 60,000 people is roughly the population of Terre Haute, Indiana; or Cheyenne, Wyoming. It's how many people would fit in Dodger Stadium, and it's more than the 50,000-plus U.S. combat deaths in Vietnam.
CNN: Indian court to hear charges against gang-rape suspects
The men accused in the gang-rape and killing of a 23-year-old Indian woman are expected to face murder, rape and kidnapping charges in a New Delhi court on Thursday. The brutal attack on the woman, who died from severe injuries last week, has appalled and enraged many Indians, prompting widespread debate over the way the country handles sexual assaults and the treatment of women in Indian society.
CNN: Teen offers virginity for money
Shopkeepers and school children in this remote Brazilian farming town giggle and point when Rebecca Bernardo pedals by on her rusty red bicycle. The unwanted attention started a few months ago when the Brazilian high school student posted a video on YouTube auctioning off her virginity.
CNNMoney: U.S. credit ratings test is yet to come
Credit rating agencies are likely to hold off passing judgment on the U.S. credit rating until they have a clearer picture about the fate of the debt ceiling and longer term plans to reduce borrowing.
CNNMoney: Wall Street's biggest headwind: Washington
Investors are relieved that the fiscal cliff was avoided, thanks to last minute negotiations, but the debt problems facing the United States - and in turn the stock market - are far from over. In fact, of the 30 investment strategists and money managers surveyed by CNNMoney, most said that uncertainty out of Washington remains the market's biggest headwind.
CNNMoney: No word on tax refunds
The nation didn't go over the fiscal cliff, but tax refunds remain up in the air. Congress' late action on the fiscal cliff tax provisions has caused headaches for the Internal Revenue Service, which now has to program its systems and issue tax forms based on the revised laws. It has not announced when taxpayers can start filing their 2012 returns, which means refunds will most likely be delayed. Filing usually begins in mid-January.
In case you missed it…
A fiscal cliff deal has been reached, but the temporary reduction in payroll tax has expired and will affect paychecks.