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* Americans are split over the deal lawmakers struck this week to avert the "fiscal cliff," with 43 percent saying they approve of it and 45 percent saying they disapprove in a Gallup poll conducted Thursday. Sixty-seven percent of Democrats approve of the measure, while nearly as many Republicans — 65 percent — disapprove. The leaders who worked to resolve the crisis received sub-par marks. Among them, President Obama fared best, with 46 percent saying they approve of the way he handled the negotiations and 48 percent saying they disapprove.

* Multiple reports indicate that Obama is expected to nominate former Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel to be the next secretary of defense as early as Monday. Some Senate Republicans unhappy with positions Hagel has adopted over the years have said that his confirmation process could be difficult. 

* On the first full day of his post-congressional life, former Massachusetts Democratic congressman Barney Frank said he's itching to go back on a temporary basis. Frank said he wants Gov. Deval Patrick (D) to appoint him to replace Sen. John Kerry (D), if Kerry is confirmed as secretary of state. The longtime congressman, who cited a desire to be a part of the upcoming economic discussions on Capitol Hill, said he wouldn't run in the special election to fill the remainder of Kerry's term. Patrick said Friday that Frank would "be a great senator," but added, “I have a lot of factors I’m considering.”

* Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) says he is still considering a run for Kerry's seat. "I know that Mr. Kerry's been nominated, but I'm not sure what the legislative schedule will be on confirmation, or how long that might take. So we're using that time to look very hard at it and put some things in place so that, if I did decide to make the run, we could prosecute a good campaign," Lynch said. Senate Democrats' campaign arm has already endorsed Rep. Ed Markey (D) to succeed Kerry. 


* Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) signaled a willingness to accept a partial government shutdown as a result of upcoming fiscal negotiations  to ensure the nation’s long-term fiscal stability. "The coming deadlines will be the next flashpoints in our ongoing fight to bring fiscal sanity to Washington,” Cornyn writes in an op-ed. “It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal wellbeing of our country, rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain. 

* House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) defended her office's decision to alter a photograph of women in Democratic Caucus to include those who were not able to make the photo-op. 

* Sen. Michael Crapo (R-Idaho) pleaded guilty Friday to drunk driving following a December arrest in Alexandria, Va. Crapo was sentenced to 180 days in jail, all of which was suspended. His license was suspended for a year, (though he’s eligible for a restricted one), and he must pay a $250 fine and complete an alcohol program. 

* A rematch of the 2010 Connecticut governor's race could be in the offing: Republican Tom Foley says he plans to challenge Gov. Dan Malloy (D), who narrowly defeated him a little over two years ago. 


Next, they take on the blogosphere ... 

With Aaron Blake