It's Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. Let's start here.
1. Historic vote
In a historic vote on Capitol Hill today, President Donald Trump is expected to become the third U.S. president in history to be impeached.
Trump has accused Democrats of "declaring open war on American Democracy," writing in a six-plage letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday, "You are the ones bringing pain and suffering to our Republic for your own selfish personal, political and partisan gain."
In a letter to House Democrats, Pelosi said, "If we do not act, we will be derelict in our duty," adding, "Very sadly, the facts have made clear that the President abused his power for his own personal, political benefit and that he obstructed Congress as he demanded that he is above accountability, above the Constitution and above the American people. In America, no one is above the law."
On today's "Start Here," ABC News Political Director Rick Klein breaks down the stakes for both parties and what polling says about the public's opinion of impeachment.
"It's striking that half the country thinks the president should be removed and impeached from office," he says. "But it's also striking that more than half is not on board and that is leaving a lot of Republicans back in a comfort zone, which is to go back to their partisan corners."
2. Surprise medical bills
On Tuesday, the House voted across party lines to pass a pair of funding measures to avert a government shutdown, detailing roughly $1.4 trillion in government funding ahead of the Friday deadline.
A deal to protect consumers from surprise medical bills was expected in the spending package, but lawmakers ended up punting on the legislation, to the dismay of people like Claudia Knafo, who tells the podcast her story of being hit with a massive bill.
"I think what enrages me so much is I had spinal surgery, but there are people who are battling cancer-- how on earth can someone who is battling cancer and having chemotherapy treatments have to deal with the possibility of losing their house, their children's college tuition?" she says. "It doesn't make sense that this is the United States."
3. 'Migrant Protection Protocols'
The Trump administration implemented several new policies this year to limit asylum claims, including a program called "Migrant Protection Protocols," which sends migrants back to Mexico while they attempt to navigate the U.S. legal process.
White House officials have cited the program as a success, pointing to the recent decline in unauthorized crossings, but ABC "Nightline" co-anchor Juju Chang tells the podcast it has spawned migrant camps south of the border where thousands of migrants are subjected to kidnapping, assault, extortion, and even death.
"We walked around this encampment in Matamoros and there's no running water, there's no toilets, migrants are bathing their children in the river, using it as a bathroom," she says. "It's highly unsanitary, unsafe."
"Start Here," ABC News' flagship podcast, offers a straightforward look at the day's top stories in 20 minutes. Listen for free every weekday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or the ABC News app. Follow @StartHereABC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for exclusive content and show updates.
'Terrible tragedy': An 83-year-old woman has allegedly been stabbed to death in her home by a man working for her cable television provider.
'Still much work to be done': Researchers at the University of Oklahoma believe they’ve uncovered a mass grave site from one of the worst race-related massacres in U.S. history -- the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
'Not perfect': An independent investigation has been launched into the uniformed officer who was found passed out drunk in Aurora, Colorado.
'A lot of flu season left': Flu activity is spreading across the country, with widespread cases in the South and other pockets of the disease cropping up in states nationwide.
From our friends at FiveThirtyEight:
'What unites Republicans may be changing. Same with Democrats.': Democrats have been considered the party of Asian, black, gay, Jewish and Latino people, along with atheists, teachers, union members, etc. — in short, a coalition organized around a bunch of different identity groups. Meanwhile, Republicans have been thought of as the party of small government, low taxes, a strong national defense and “traditional” moral values — in short, a coalition based around a few core ideological principles.
Doff your cap:
One dog had a trip of a lifetime when more than a dozen volunteers got together to transport him thousands of miles back to his family.
Zeus, a pit bull who lived with a single mother and her two daughters in Butte, Montana, was reportedly taken by a family friend who was visiting two months ago.
“We realized he could not fly commercial because he is too big. He is 73 pounds,” Chelsea Staley, with the Kanawha Charleston Humane Association.
Over the course of six days, Zeus was driven across nine states and arrived back at his family's home on Tuesday night.