Biden says wife Jill once complained he was ‘poorest’ man in Congress in latest fishy tale
November 3, 2022
President Biden claimed Thursday that first lady Jill Biden once bitterly snapped at him over his ranking as the “poorest man in Congress” — calling it a “true story” even though it’s unclear if he ever actually earned the superlative.
Biden, who moved into a 10,000-square-foot former DuPont family mansion in 1974 — one year after joining the Senate — told the tale during a New Mexico event focused on his plans to forgive up to $20,000 in student debt per borrower.
The president said that his late son Beau “ended up with [student] debt because I had the dubious distinction of being listed as the poorest man in Congress.”
“I shouldn’t say this, but I’m gonna tell you anyway,” Biden said to laughter, before recounting a supposed phone call featuring impersonations of his wife, whom he married in 1977 after she left her first husband.
“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,” Biden said.
“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?'” Biden said.
“She said, ‘Fine,'” Biden quoted in a snippy tone, sarcastically adding, “Well you know that’s a good start.”
“She said, ‘Did you read today’s paper?’ — It’s a true story — ‘Did you read today’s paper?’ meaning the local Wilmington paper — Wilmington, Delaware,” he went on.
“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?'”
Biden added, “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.”
The president has invoked the self-deprecating “poorest” title before to demonstrate his own humble origins — though it’s unclear if he ever actually was declared the poorest member of Congress instead of merely being among the poorest.
In 2019, PolitiFact reported that the Biden campaign pointed the outlet to the Center for Responsive Politics rankings of members of Congress, which go back only to 2004 and show that other lawmakers were estimated to be poorer than Biden.
In 2008, his final year as a senator, Biden was ranked 538 out of 575 federal officials, with an estimated net worth between minus-$360,972 and $409,996. Members of both chambers of Congress ranked lower than him that year.
Biden’s net worth slipped further during his vice presidency, despite benefiting from free housing and transportation. In 2014, the final year for which his wealth was estimated by the center, Biden was worth between minus-$1.8 million and minus-$73,000 in 2014 — meaning his debts outpaced his assets.