The overwhelming House vote against a post-election raise for members of Congress probably means a pay freeze for 16,418 career government executives even if their subordinates get an expected 4 percent increase in October.

Earlier it appeared the executives -- capped at $57,500 and $58,500 -- would probably get the same percentage pay raise as white collar workers in Grades 1 through 15.

There was even a chance that Congress, in return for a modest 4 percent adjustment for itself, would allow government executives to get catch-up raises of from $6,330 to $8,770 after the November election.

Those amounts represent amounts due federal executives but denied them in the past by Congress. The plan was for Congress to take a small raise for itself (members get $60,662 a year) and allow all or part of the catch-up for government executives.

But the executive pay raise appears to be down the tubes as a result of the 266-to-145 vote in the House Tuesday when it became known that the budget reconciliation bill would make it possible for members of Congress to get substantial raises -- based on the recommendations of a special commission -- after the election.

The only people who look forward to election-year congressional pay raises are those running against incumbents. It gives them more throw-the-rascals-out ammunition.

A senior federal official who has been watching the pay raise situation said yesterday, "I don't see any way our people are going to get anything this year after that House vote." The House yesterday approved the reconciliation bill, which calls for $13.7 billion in spending cuts over the next three years, after the congressional pay raise language was removed. The Senate also approved the package (minus any potential congressional raises) yesterday.

It is still possible that Congress, after the November elections, could meet in lame-duck session and approve a pay raise for itself or federal executives. But that is unlikely.

In most parts of the country, federal executive pay raises are political dynamite, boondoggles.

Here, where most of the executives live, pay taxes and buy groceries, it is a matter of economics and equity. But since the majority of Americans live and vote where government is sometimes a four-letter word, chances are slim that executives will get any increase this year.