Although it’s uncertain whether he ever had the title of being the poorest member of Congress, President Biden asserted on Thursday that Jill Biden once angrily reprimanded him for it. He claimed it was real.
One year after being elected to the Senate, Biden moved into a 10,000 square foot former DuPont family house. He related the story during an event in New Mexico where he discussed his plans to forgive up to $20,000 in student debt per borrower.
The president claimed that his late son Beau’s educational debt was a result of his dubious distinction as the poorest member of Congress.
Then he described a supposed phone call in which his wife, whom he married in 1977 after she dumped her first husband, was impersonated.
“When I’d be away campaigning for somebody, I’d call my wife in the morning before she took off for school, to see how things were. And I called her one morning. I was up in the state of Vermont campaigning for Senator Pat Leahy. And I said, ‘Hi honey, how are you? She said, ‘Fine’.”
Biden continued to say that Jill asked him if he had read that day’s papers- the local Wilmington paper at Delaware.
He added, “I said, ‘No honey, I didn’t see it.’ She said, ‘headline, front page, top of the fold: Biden, poorest man in Congress. Is that true?’”
“Well, I didn’t think you were supposed to make money when you’re in Congress. But at any rate, I didn’t feel poor. And by the way, I got elected when I was 29. I had no income. I had a little — I was just starting my law practice. But I had a good salary as a senator, I thought that was just fine.”
Although it’s not clear if he was ever designated the poorest member of Congress rather than just being among the lowest, the president has previously used the self-deprecating label to highlight his own humble beginnings.
According to PolitiFact, the Biden campaign referred the publication to the Center for Responsive Politics rankings of Congressmen and Congresswomen in 2019. These rankings only date back to 2004 and demonstrate that other parliamentarians were thought to be on a lower socioeconomic level than Biden.
In 2008, the last year he served as a senator, Biden had a net worth estimated to be between minus-$360,972 and $409,996, placing him 538th out of 575 federal officials. Congressmen from both chambers came in lower that year than him.
Despite receiving free housing and transportation during his vice presidential term, Biden’s net worth decreased. Biden’s wealth was last assessed by the institute in 2014, when it projected it to be between -$1.8 million and -$73,000, suggesting his liabilities exceeded his assets.
Joe and Jill Biden received a cash windfall of $15.6 million in 2017 and 2018 after serving in public government for decades. Ironically, a large portion of the cash came from institutions and was given to students, including about $1 million for a professorship from the University of Pennsylvania that had only nine known visits to campus. In addition, Biden received $180,000 to lecture at Vanderbilt University, $190,000 from Drew University in New Jersey, and $182,000 from Lake Michigan College.
It’s likely that Biden once had the title of Congressman with the lowest income, although it’s unknown when a publication may have made that claim.