Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., predicted Thursday that Senate Republicans and Democrats would be able to reach a consensus on reforming the green card program.
"It's going to take an effort to inform and persuade my colleagues and a lot of the business leaders who have some skepticism or even downright opposition to other parts of the Trump administration's immigration agenda," Cotton told radio host Hugh Hewitt Thursday morning. "But on this issue, on helping blue-collar workers have a fair shot at a decent wage and getting the very best and most talented immigrants from around the world, I think we can achieve some consensus."
Cotton and fellow GOP Sen. David Perdue of Georgia introduced a revised version of the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act, or the RAISE Act.
"This is not something that's going to be on the Senate floor tomorrow or next week or next month," Cotton admitted. "We recognize this is going to take time."
The first-term senator said Democrats should be "open-minded" to the proposal and cited other liberal lawmakers who have previously supported similar concepts, including Paul Krugman and former Rep. Barbara Jordan, D-Texas.
The bill has not received support from centrist Democrats like Rep. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., but Cotton said the bill's goal, to boost American employment rates and wages, is worthy of bipartisan support.
"Even if we don't agree on things like the border wall, or what to do about the status of illegal immigrants, surely we can agree on this issue and that we need to be focused on the interests of American workers," Cotton said.
Cotton hopes they can find a Democratic cosponsor to help guide the bill through Congress.
He also warned against relying on a bill to fix foreign relations and address issues that create global crises.
"You cannot solve a refugee crisis with immigration policy. It has to be solved with wise and hard-nosed foreign policy," Cotton added. "There's no way to account for all the hardship and suffering and poverty and war in the world with immigration policy. It has to be done with a smarter foreign policy."
Similar legislation has not been considered by lawmakers since 1996. The bill marks a new approach to immigration reform compared to the 2013 "Gang of Eight" bill, which focused on comprehensive reforms and addressing illegal immigration.
President Trump announced Wednesday he would support the RAISE Act and praised the plan to implement a merit-based point system for foreigners who apply for legal permanent status, or green cards, through their employer.