And the Lord looked sideways at the searing sun and down to the hot air on the Hill and said, "Chill out, folks!" And there was the eighth annual Capitol Hill Ice Cream Party. Creased foreheads gave way to vanilla-streaked chins, vapid sound bites to refreshing noisy slurps. It was a warm celebration of the cold, the creamy and the crunchy.

As a Brobdingnagian smorgasbord that included an estimated 2,500 gallons of ice cream and frozen yogurt, 250 gallons of toppings and 5,000 root beer floats was unveiled on the Russell Senate Office Building courtyard late yesterday afternoon, members of Congress and their staffs joined sticky, flavored hands in one of the strongest shows of bipartisan approval. Ice cream became the great leveler. The popular tastes were conservative, the helpings rather liberal.

"This is the only time that the senators are truly united," said Sen. Tim Wirth (D-Colo.), as he helped himself to a generous scoop of chocolate. And "it's the only time members of the Congress can double-dip and not be criticized," quipped Bill Baar, a vice president of the Columbus-based Borden Inc.

Sponsored by the International Ice Cream Association (IICA) and the Milk Industry Foundation, the two national trade groups representing the country's milk processors and ice cream manufacturers, the celebration came at the heels of a series of briefings between industry representatives and legislators. And there seemed to be ample cause for celebration as industry representatives milled around flashing genial ear-to-ear grins and winking away at the flashbulbs as they posed with their senators.

"The sales are very good, there are a lot of new products and the industry is doing extremely well," beamed Tip Tipton, president and the chief executive officer of the association. Concurred the vice president, Connie Tipton, "It keeps on growing and we are trying to stay at the top of things."

But the industry may not be in trouble-free waters. Some consumer organizations charge certain ice cream manufacturers with selling products under "misleading labels," said Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

For example, Liebman said that some "sugar-free" frozen bars contain more fat than the "regular" ones, a fact that is not mentioned in the "tricky label."

But such concerns didn't seem to cloud the hot afternoon that began with a visit by Marilyn Quayle. The doting hundreds notwithstanding, she looked as cool as the ice cream itself. When asked why the vice president hadn't accompanied her, she said, "This is the first time that he has missed such a thing. We all love ice cream."

But it was not the love for ice cream that drew 23-year-old Allen Redd to the party. One of the few ice cream-less people who stared stoically at the carefree crowd, Redd, an insurance salesman, was ready to break the ice.

"It's a good place for prospecting. You have a lot of federal government employees in a pretty good mood. This is the time for good business." And he had tasted success, which he confessed was "sweeter than the ice cream."

Then, there was the lovely 18-year-old Angie Lang, the York County Dairy Princess, who "loved to promote dairy products" and expressed with remarkable candor that "though I love the ice cream, I hate the traffic in Washington."

There was Joe Powell, a detective-sergeant with the U.S. Capitol Police, a regular at the party, and a "vanilla and apple pie man," who said that he had not brought his son because he was busy packing for a ROTC summer camp.

There was the occasional scruple lurking in the scarce shadows. A young woman who seemed to have won the battle of the bulge sheepishly stared at the cone and said, "I am not going to eat the whole thing. And then there's the workout, you know. That will burn everything off."

To top the gastronomic exercise with the cerebral, the IICA released a list of demographic tidbits ranging from the delightfully obvious -- U.S. ice cream consumption is highest in June and July -- to the disturbingly revealing -- adults consider ice cream a "treat or indulgence," and serve it to children as a "reward."

Results of the 1990 Capitol Hill Ice Cream Budget Survey, completed by members of Congress, were equally insightful. When asked what was the best way to solve the national debt problem, a bipartisan majority confessed, "Eat two scoops of ice cream and think about it {the national debt or the ice cream?} in the morning."