U.S. Sen. Robert W. Kasten Jr. (R-Wis.) was arrested near his house on Capitol Hill and charged with driving while intoxicated after police stopped him for allegedly running a red light and driving on the wrong side of the road, D.C. police reported last night.
They said Kasten, 43, a Milwaukee resident in his fifth year in the Senate, was arrested about 8:20 p.m. Thursday at 12th and C streets SE, about 12 blocks from the Capitol.
Police spokesman Lt. William White III said that after an officer stopped Kasten, "a strong odor of alcohol was detected on his breath." An alcohol enforcement van was called to the scene, and Kasten's blood alcohol level was measured at at least 0.10, White said, the minimum for a charge of driving while intoxicated.
He said that in addition to being charged with driving while intoxicated, Kasten was charged with passing a red light and driving on the wrong side of the roadway. He was processed at the scene and released under the citation release program, which does not require the posting of collateral, White said. It could not be learned last night if the senator was driven from the scene, but White said that his car had not been impounded.
"There are no excuses. I made a serious mistake and I feel terrible about this. I am sorry and I can assure you it won't happen again," Kasten said in a statement issued by his office in Milwaukee.
Kasten, running on a Reaganite platform of less government and lower taxes, won his senate seat in 1980 with an upset of Democratic Sen. Gaylord Nelson. He had previously served two terms as a member of the U.S. House from Wisconsin and in 1978 lost the state's Republican gubernatorial primary.
He is chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations and also serves on the Budget; Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Small Business committees.
"Ordinarily a member of Congress while Congress is in session is immune from arrest with the exception of situations involving treason, the commission of a felony or a breach of the peace," White said. He said that driving while intoxicated is considered a breach of the peace because "it threatens the imminent safety of members of the public at large."
Kasten is scheduled to appear in D.C. Superior Court Feb. 4, White said.