Both Reps. Charles W. Whalen (R-Ohio) and Newton Steers (R-Md.) say we did them wrong in our interpretation of their bill to defer pay raises for members of Congress for two years. Whalen and Steers contend that their plan will help - not hurt - the chances of pay raises for top federal executives and federal judges.

President Ford on Monday is expected to recommend rather substantial pay raises for members of Congress, judges and political appointees. If political pay is boosted, the salaries of more than 20,000 top-level career government executives would be affacted. Unless either the Senate or the House vetoes the pay proposal, it would go into effect automatically.

Whalen and Steers have introduced legislation that would give the raises to executives and judges, but withhold them from this Congress. They assert that this would make it easier for Congress to enact the raises for everybody else by taking itself out of the picture.

I think Whalen and Steers mean well but misread the Congress.I suspect that most members of Congress want the raises and feel they deserve them - no matter what they say for political consumption.

And I think - and lots of Capitol Hill watchers agree - that if Congress doesn't give itself a paelected federal officials more money. After all, 90 per cent of the people who would benefit from an executive pay raise in government live within the Washington metro area (many, in fact, in Rep. Steer's own district).

Higher executive salaries may be a burning issue here, but it is an issue that makes people burn in other parts of the country. I'll be willing to bet either one of the gentlemen that if Congress cuts itself out of any upcoming pay raise, it will take everybody else out of the picture, too.

Inaugural Hooky: Postal employees at headquarters here, who have been told they must work on inauguration day, will be watching the office of the men who told them to work to make sure they show up on Jan. 20 and stay all day.