Congress-watchers predict that the Senate and House will push through a 3 percent January federal pay raise overriding the president's proposed 2 percent raise. If that happens it would be a repetition of last year's federal pay fight when Congress approved a 3 percent raise over White House objections. U.S. workers got that 3 percent increase in January of this year.

Although the congressional add-on raise would cost an extra $500 million, federal agencies will be required to absorb most of the costs themselves either by slight reductions in hiring or new curbs on travel.

Congress returns next week from a monthlong vacation and the budget reconciliation packages -- which contain the 3 percent pay raise -- will be among the first items on the agenda.

Government retirees, whose pensions are linked to the cost of living, will be getting a bigger percentage increase in January. Currently that raise stands at 3.7 percent. Federal workers are paid an average of just over $27,000 a year while the typical retiree gets about $13,000.Meetings

The Annandale chapter of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees meets at 10 a.m. today at the Annandale fire house. NARFE Secretary Gordon Brown will talk about a proposed catastrophic medical coverage plan that could force federal retirees to pay more for the benefit.

NARFE's Arlington chapter is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. Sept. 9 at the Culpeper Garden Recreation Center. Former Missouri representative James Symington will talk about the Constitution. Call 528-1020.

The National Association of Government Communicators' convention will be at the Rosslyn Westpark Hotel Nov. 18 to 20. Speakers include White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater; United Press International's Helen Thomas; Arnaud de Borchgrave, Mark Tapscott and George Archibald of The Washington Times; David S. Broder and Noel Epstein of The Washington Post, and U.S. News and World Report editor David Gergen. Call 823-4821. Job Mart

The American Association of Retired Persons is looking for retirees 55 and older for secretarial jobs with the Enviromental Protection Agency. AARP has a job search agreement with EPA. Call 863-0011.

National Science Foundation needs computer specialist project leaders at the Grade 14 level. Call 357-9529.

National Institutes of Health wants a GS 5 through 7 personnel clerk/assistant (typing). Civil service status required. Call Cliff Schein at 496-6334. People

Roger W. Gale will become director of external affairs for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

John Frederick Inman retired last week from the Energy Department after 44 years of federal service. He started as a file clerk at the Veterans Administration. New Look

Government Executive magazine's September issue features its new look with less emphasis on hardware and software, and more stories of interest to top federal managers. This month's offering focuses on the Pentagon power establishment and also hits on subjects ranging from the new pension plan and executive bonuses to a timely article on how to select a shredder. GE's address is 1730 M St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036.