A congressional decision on the next COL (cost of living) raise for U.S. retirees is even further off than I reported yesterday. It will be Aug. 20 or 21 before the House debates and votes on a measure making temporary changes in the COL payoff timetable for retirees.

Under legislation cleared by the Senate, federal-military retirees (as part of a money-saving scheme) would not get the 7.7 percent raise due them this September. Instead they would get a full COL catchup next March.

A different plan before the House Rules Committee would allow U.S. retirees to get the September boost. But it would deny them the March 1981 raise.

Under current law, retirees get COL adjustments ever six months. Congress wants to make a one-time saving, by skipping one of the two raises due retirees. The question is whether the Senate or House version will prevail.

The House Rules Committee is not expected to clear the COL bill before Aug. 18 or 19. Then it would go to a debate, and vote, before the full House by Aug. 20 or 21.

Once the House approves its version of the COL legislation, it will go to a Senate-House conference committee. That committee will decide whether federal, postal and military retirees will get the raise this September (the House plan) or have to wait until March (the Senate plan).