WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump called Arkansas' Republican Sen. Tom Cotton this week to assure him that a deal with Democrats on immigration isn't there yet, the senator said Sunday.
"I think the president has said publicly that there's not a deal, that he wants to see a deal--in fact he called me a couple night's ago to say there's no deal," Cotton said on Sunday's "Meet The Press." "He wants to make sure that we protect the interests of American worker."
Trump has flirted with working with Democrats on numerous occasions over the last two weeks — from holding meetings and sharing various meals, to brokering a deal to raise the debt ceiling, fund the government, and help hurricane victims.
This week, Trump allegedly agreed to broad outlines of a deal on immigration after a meeting with Democratic congressional leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
Cotton indicated that the president asked him to sit down with Senate Minority Leader Schumer and other Democrats to work on immigration and border security issues, saying that although "there's no deal right now," he's "happy to work with the president and Democrats in Congress to try to reach a deal that helps American workers."
Cotton on Sunday also reiterated that he's not in favor of legislation that's been stalled in Congress called the "DREAM Act," which includes granting legal status to children of undocumented immigrants who came to the country illegally. He claimed it would be "the single biggest amnesty in the history of the United States."
Cotton has proposed what he's calling the "RAISE Act," (Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy) which aims to create a merit-based system and curtail legal immigration.
"If you want to give legal status to these 700,000 or so people who are in their 20's and 30's now that came here illegally as children that's a permanent and irreversible change to American law," he said. "You'd need to make a permanent and irreversible change, in return, to protect American workers."
Cotton also said he wants any new changes in immigration law to be "tailored and incremental," because "Congress has shown over the last 11 years three times that it can't pass a major comprehensive immigration bill."
Asked whether Trump's recent public frustrations with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have been warranted, Cotton said be believes the president's irritation is actually with "Congress as a whole."
"The president doesn't have so much of a leadership problem sometimes," he said. "He has more of a membership problem."
Cotton was also asked on Sunday about Trump's call earlier this summer to not allow transgender people to serve in the military. The senator is waiting for a report from Defense Secretary James Mattis before he comes to his own conclusion, he said.
As a former infantry officer in the U.S. Army, Cotton was also asked if he would have any problem serving with a transgender person.
"I don't know," he responded. "I didn't go around asking them that. Just like I might have served with a gay or lesbian soldier as well. But what we have to focus on is the readiness of our forces and the readiness of individual units and individual soldiers. And make sure that they are prepared to fight and win our country's wars."