Rand Paul: Unite 'the two Americas'

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Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulLawmaker seeks to investigate Obama's foreign tax compliance law Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears GOP senators hit FBI on early probe of NY bombing suspect MORE (R-Ky.) is using Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to push for criminal justice reform to unite "the two Americas."

"Let’s commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King by uniting the two Americas into one: an America that includes justice for one, and justice for all," Paul wrote in a Time op-ed on Monday. 
 
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Paul pointed to the deaths of two African-American men — Eric Garner, who died while in police custody and Michael Brown, who was shot by a white police officer — as evidence of the "uneasy coexistence of the two Americas" and "undercurrent of unease." 
 
The Kentucky Republican suggested, separately, that criminal justice reform was an area where he could work with President Obama and Democrats. 
 
"Criminal justice reform and some of the clemency that he's done, I think, are a good idea and I really want to push for a criminal justice reform," he told MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
 
Obama has made criminal justice a key part of his second-term domestic agenda, including meeting with lawmakers at the White House to try to keep momentum around the issue. 
 
A bipartisan group of senators has also rolled out legislation that would reduce some mandatory minimum sentences, including those for nonviolent drug offenders, while increasing mandatory minimums in other areas. 
 
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is competing with Paul for the GOP presidential nomination, was one of five Republicans to vote against the legislation during a Judiciary Committee meeting. 
 
Paul added in his Time op-ed that while Americans should "be aware" of injustices included in the criminal system, "we shouldn't be misled to believe that excessive force is the norm, not the exception." 
 
"I believe that most police are conscientious and want only to provide safety for us," he wrote. "The blame should be directed to the laws and the politicians who order police into untenable positions, that insist on 'taking down' someone for selling a couple of untaxed cigarettes."
 
The use of force by police officers has been under the media spotlight after a string of deaths of African American men sparked protest around the country over the past year. 
 
Paul also discussed the issue during his campaign stops in Iowa on Monday, and suggested that Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, has tried to distance herself from the policies of her husband's administration. 
 
"She conveniently forgets that many of the worst bills that need fixing in our fight for justice are Clinton bills," he said. "Fed mandatory minimums and 3 strikes & life bills came from Clinton's attempt to look tough on crime. They put a [generation] of minorities in prison."