There were only 45 minutes left to a reception that the Council for a Livable World was giving for seven senators last night, and good heavens, not a one of them was there.

"I don't see any senators," Council president Jerome Grossman said to John Isaacs, the arranger of the reception in the Mike Mansfield room of the Capitol.

Isaacs looked a tad uncomfortable. "They said they're coming," he said.

"Come on, now," said Grossman. "Produce a senator."

A woman from a Hill office got another beer. The lumps of soft cheese diminished. Crackers crunched.

Time passed.

"Did you bring one of those masks?" Grossman asked Isaacs. "Like a Cranston mask? We could put it on somebody."

The small group around Grossman chuckled. Isaacs didn't.

And then suddenly, at 5:50 p.m.:

"Oh, look!" said Isaacs. A senator!A live senator!"

It was Gary Hart (D-Colo.), one of those being honored at the reception that was also designed to raise the profile of the council. It's a 20-year-old arms-control public-interest group that gives money to Senate campaigns, warns of nuclear war, and says -- now that Ronald Reagan is president -- that these are not the best of times.

Still, they're starting out politely. "We're hopeful," said Grossman, "that Ronald Reagan will recognize that arms control is not a partisan issue. "I think he'll make a lot of noises about how tough he is, and then he'll come to some sort of agreement with the Soviet Union. It's just irrational not to make a deal with somebody who can blow the s--- out of you any minute."

The senators honored were those 1980 campaign winners the council and its supporters had given money to. Hart, for instance, received $25,127 and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) got $29,744. "A nuclear war in this century," said Leahy who showed up immediately after Hart, "is not a posibility. It's a probability."

Sen. Thomas Eagleton (D-Mo.) was another of those honored. Like the others, he was waiting around for Reagan's economics message to Congress.

"I think he'll get the substantial part of his recommendations," Eagleton said of congressional reaction to the proposed budget cuts. "The size of his election mandate, his adroit ability as a public persuader, and the warm rapport he's developing with the Congress lead me to believe that when it's all over in the summer, he'll be able to say he got most of what he wanted."

Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), who wasn't one of those honored, took a different tack:

"I think there's a concern about what kind of budget cuts," he said. "The man just came into office. How can he learn everything that rapidly? I think we'll try to prevail on him to modify."

Eventually, most of the rest of those senators honored -- Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.), Alan cranston (D-Calif.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Charles Mathias (R-Md.) -- managed to make it to the reception.

An early, non-honoree arrival was Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). The council gives money only to Senate campaigns, so Kennedy got nothing from them for his 1980 presidential bid. But he has received money from them in the past, and in 1982, he's up again for the Senate.

Which brings up the subject of Kennedy's finances Grim. He's $750,000 in debt from the presidential race, but is meanwhile trying to raise money for what might be a tough Senate race.

"God, that's awful," one guest said.

"Yeah, it is bad," responded Kennedy. "You sound like my finance chairman."