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* The four highest-ranking Senate Democrats encouraged President Obama to bypass Congress to prevent the nation from defaulting on its spending obligations if lawmakers don't act to raise the debt ceiling next month. Republicans want spending cuts in exchange for any rise in the limit, but Obama has said he will not negotiate. Among the options that have been floated: Allowing the Treasury Department to mint a trillion-dollar platinum coin to use to pay off debts, something the White House has not ruled out when asked about it. Meanwhile, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is attacking Democratic senators over the possibility that Obama will bypass Congress by producing a trillion-dollar coin.

* Obama announced that U.S. troops in Afghanistan will assume a “support role” beginning in the spring, focusing on an advisory and training mission ahead of a withdrawal of most U.S. forces by the end of 2014.

* Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) had a good day in his pursuit of winning a special election to succeed Sen. John Kerry (D) in a special election. The DSCC-backed Markey landed the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters, while state Sen. Ben Downing (D) said he would not run. Markey also hired Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren's two top fundraising aides, Michael Pratt and Colleen Coffey.

* Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) moved closer to making his Senate bid official, filing paperwork with the Federal Election Commission this week. Meanwhile, a top aide to Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) — who hasn't yet announced whether he is running for reelection —  anonymously ripped Booker as "self-absorbed and disrespectful."

* Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) said former Missouri Republican congressman Todd Akin was "partly right" in his controversial remarks about "legitimate rape" last year. “He’s partly right on that,” Gingrey, an OB-GYN, told constituents Thursday. A traumatic event could cause a woman not to ovulate, he said. Gingrey said Akin was wrong in suggesting that a pregnancy could never or almost never result from rape. In a Friday statement, Gingrey said: "I do not defend, nor do I stand by, the remarks made by Rep. Akin and Mr. Mourdock. In my attempt to provide context as to what I presumed they meant, my position was misconstrued.”


* Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) has reportedly told donors he will run for governor in 2014, a decision that could put him on a collision course with Gov. Rick Perry (R), who hasn't ruled out pursuing another term. Texas has no gubernatorial term limit.

* Alderman Sandi Jackson, wife of former Democratic congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., has resigned from the Chicago City Council. "After much consideration and while dealing with very painful family health matters, I have met with my family and determined that the constituents of the 7th Ward, as well as you Mr. Mayor, and my colleagues in the City Council deserve a partner who can commit all of their energies to the business of the people,"Jackson wrote in a letter to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Former congressman Jackson resigned late last year amid mental health issues and a federal probe of his political dealings.

* House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will keynote this year's Conservative Political Action Conference.

* Drawing on a somewhat unfortunate cliche, Vice President Biden told reporters “there is no silver bullet” to deal with gun violence. Biden made the remark before a meeting with video game industry executives.

* NBC News "Meet The Press" host David Gregory will not face criminal charges for waving what he claimed was a high-capacity ammunition gun clip on national television last month during an interview with National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierrre.

* The pro-abortion rights group EMILY’s List endorsed New York City mayoral candidate Christine Quinn (D).


Just like they drew it up.

With Aaron Blake