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Big questions hang over debut US infra committee meeting

The committee’s first gathering of the new Congress may begin to clarify each party’s position on infrastructure spending and the role of the private sector.

In its first hearing of the new Congress, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will meet Wednesday as a vision for infrastructure under a Trump presidency begins to take shape.

The hearing, which will be held at 10am at the Rayburn House Office Building, will feature testimony from business and labour leaders. The witness list includes the chief executives of FedEx, Cargill, BMW of North America; the board chairwoman of Vermeer; and the president of the AFL-CIO.

“For America to remain competitive, expand our economy, and create jobs, it must have an infrastructure that is ready to meet the needs of the 21st century,” the committee, which is chaired by Pennsylvania Republican Bill Shuster, stated in a press release.

Since Trump’s election, infrastructure has emerged as a possible area of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans. But while Trump has proposed adding $500 billion to $1 trillion in infrastructure investment, conservatives in Congress including Speaker Paul Ryan are likely to balk at anything with a massive price tag.

Wednesday’s hearing may shed some light on how much support exists among Republicans for infrastructure spending. Shuster was one of the first Republican leaders to endorse Trump during the primary race last spring and cited Trump’s commitment to infrastructure as a reason for his support.

While Trump and Congressional Democrats agree on the need for infrastructure improvements, less consensus exists on how to pay for them. In October, before the election, Trump’s advisors published a proposal to unlock $1 trillion in infrastructure spending by offering tax credits to private sector investors. In contrast, a plan released last week by Senate Democrats calls for $1 trillion in direct federal spending.