Some key congressional Democrats are skeptical about the motivations behind a bill, introduced last Friday by Sen. William V. Roth (R-Del.), that would permit thousands of federal workers to take early retirement between July and December this year.

Roth's surprise "early out" plan would temporarily suspend age and service requirements and allow many more workers, some in their early forties, to retire before they had planned.

"On the face of it, the Roth bill looks great," a House Democratic staffer said yesterday. But he said members of the House Post Office-Civil Service Committee "wonder about the motive" behind the Roth bill.

"Is this part of a plan to get workers to retire so the administration can further politicize the civil service?" he asked.

"If Bill Ford the committee's Democratic chairman or Maryland Democrats Steny Hoyer, Mike Barnes or Barbara Mikulski introduced it," he said, the House committee would have no problem with it.

"But concern has been expressed that Roth . . . who works closely with the administration, may have something else in mind," the staffer said.

Aides to Roth say the senator conceived the idea for the legislation himself months ago.

Pensions of new retirees who took advantage of the proposed provisions would be trimmed 2 percent for each year the workers were under age 55.

Under current rules, 200,000 workers, including 44,000 in this area, are eligible to retire. The Roth bill would double the number.

The earliest most civil servants can now retire is at age 55, after 30 years service. Roth's bill would allow retirement at any age after 25 years service, at age 50 with 20 years service, 55 after 15 years or age 57 after five years.

The bill stands a good chance of getting through the Republican-controlled Senate because Roth runs the Governmental Affairs Committee. But the House, with its Democratic majority, as well as the president would also have to go along before it became law.

Roth says the early retirements would trim millions from the U.S. payroll and protect younger workers whose jobs might be trimmed in the next few years because of budget cuts.

Asked about Roth's legislation, a federal lobbyist said: "This is a tough one, because our members clearly like the bill . . . . But we get a little nervous when it comes from the administration."

Office of Personnel Management officials say they haven't studied Roth's plan in detail. That agency has five early retirement proposals of its own under review. "Roth's now makes six," an OPM spokesman said yesterday. People

Bob Honig, director of the Federal Government Service Task Force, is back on the job. For several months he and his wife, lawyer Rande Joiner, were touring and filming in India and Sri Lanka.

Bob Williams, postal expert for The Federal Times, will move over to cover postal affairs for the Federal Employees News Digest. The Digest is edited by former Washington Star federal columnist Joseph Young and ex-Federal Timesman Don Mace. The plan is to begin a new weekly newsletter aimed at postal workers sometime this summer.

Ken Blaylock, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, will be on ABC's "Good Morning America" program tomorrow to talk about drug tests for federal workers.