"The Lawmakers," WETA's public affairs program that covers Congress, celebrated its first anniversary yesterday evening with a cocktail reception for several hundred people at the Rayburn House Office Building.

It was like a cast party, only the actors and actresses filing in and out were actually legislators -- the basis of the show. Rep. Jim Wright (D-Tex.), the House majority leader, Sen. Larry Pressler (R-S.D.) and Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) were among the real-life lawmakers who came to greet their televised chroniclers.

"This is a display of how well the program has done," said "Lawmakers" reporter Cokie Roberts. She and her colleagues Paul Duke and Linda Wertheimer met guests at the door, while folks from Channel 26 mingled with congressional aides and representatives from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Public Broadcasting System and National Public Radio.

It was also a chance to meet the show's sponsors from private industry, the Dallas-based LTV Corp. and the American Council of Life Insurance. "We're fortunate to get them," said WETA President Ward Chamberlin. "We always have a problem with funding." "The Lawmakers," he said, is currently broadcast over 200 PBS stations.

"Congress is the best beat in Washington," said Wertheimer, although earlier Roberts said, "It would be nice if the Senate was televised. That would make life a lot easier." But the "Lawmakers" camera crew had no complaints. "We got popcorn from Sen. Mark Hatfield's (R-Ore.) staff," said WETA's David Steinberg. "Tip O'Neill (D-Mass.) once gave us cigars, and Orrin Hatch's (R-Utah) staff has promised us cookies."