Rhode Island Republican congressional candidate Brendan Doherty on Tuesday touted the support of the two bipartisan leaders of President Barack Obama’s debt commission, but the Republican member of the pair said it wasn’t an official endorsement, while the Democrat said he was told Doherty fully supported their plan.
Doherty on Tuesday released a message of support from former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson and former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, a Democrat.
Doherty, running against one-term Democratic Rep. David Cicilline, has spoken frequently of his support for parts of the Simpson-Bowles deficit-cutting plan, which would lower tax rates and close loopholes, alongside less popular steps like lowering the mortgage interest deduction and raising the Social Security retirement age.
He has also said repeatedly that he supports pieces of Simpson-Bowles but not the whole thing. For example, when asked whether he supports the mortgage interest proposal, he said this month it was a ‘‘conversation we could have.’’
Doherty touted the message as evidence of his bipartisan support.
‘‘Brendan has put partisanship aside by being willing to step forward to make tough decisions our nation needs. He’s a brave leader who deserves the thanks of everyone who really cares about our nation’s future,’’ the message from Simpson and Bowles reads in part before going on to urge voters to support Doherty.
Simpson told The Associated Press in an interview that they do not endorse anyone but that he wished to support Doherty after meeting with him Monday and reading an op-ed Doherty wrote in The Providence Journal that day in which he said a budget deal should start with a Simpson-Bowles proposal. Simpson said many politicians have said they supported the Simpson-Bowles plan, but then when asked about less popular specifics, they say they don’t like them. He said regardless of Doherty’s statements of weeks or months ago, he is convinced Doherty is committed to solving the debt in a bipartisan way.
‘‘If he’s willing to do these things he should receive the support of people who want to get something done,’’ Simpson said.
When asked by email if he was supporting or endorsing Doherty, Bowles replied he was introduced to Doherty on Monday after the meeting with Simpson.
‘‘I was told he supported our plan. I agreed then to offer him support for supporting our plan,’’ Bowles wrote.
Doherty policy director Rob Coupe said Doherty supports ‘‘the idea behind a bipartisan approach’’ and supports the principles of the Simpson-Bowles plan. He said Doherty will reserve a decision for now on whether to support a new plan the men are now working on until details are released, such as what cap might be proposed on mortgage interest deductions.