A big pay raise for Congress, judges and top federal executives moved a step closer to reality yesterday when the Senate refused to kill it, 56 to 42.

Sen. James B. Allen (D-Ala.) sought to block the raise, which includes a boost from $44,600 to $57,000 in annual congressional pay, by tacking on an amendment to the measure reorganizing the Senate committee system. But he was beaten on a tabling move by Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.).

The raise would go into effect automatically Feb. 20 unless the House or the Senate votes a resolution of disapproval by then. Allen said he will try again sometime before the Senate recesses Feb. 11, but yesterday's vote indicates he is unlikely to succeed. Allen said he feared a new move would be filibustered.

In the House, attempts may be made to push a resolution would be rejected if it reached the floor. The pay raise would thus become effective.

Allen said the pay raise would cost $124 million to start and would give the country an example of how not to fight inflation. "We make great claims to being servants of the people, but this would be more than 99 per cent of the people earn," he argued.

Byrd responded that members of Congress "have had a 5 per cent pay raise during the last eight years, while the cost of living has gone up 61 per cent." During the same period, he said, the wages of nonfarm workers in private employment had gone up 70 per cent, and of government General Schedule workers, 61 per cent.

Byrd said that without a pay increase, the pressure for senators to go out on speaking tours to supplement their incomes with honoraria would be greater, and a code of ethics harder to write.

Backing Byrd, Hubert H. Humphrey (D-Minn.) said he had earned plenty of honoraria in his day and didn't need the money so much, but was thinking of younger senators with children to support.

He said people talk of Senate privileges but "when I was teaching school at MacAlester (college) my office was a palace compared to this . . . There isn't a toilet up here that isn't used for an office." Humphrey added that Vice President for the first time, had talked to him a year or so ago of the difficulty of bringing up a family and serving his state on a senator's salary.

The pay raise was first recommended by a special pay commission and then, with alterations, sent to Congress by President Ford. It includes raises for Congress, a boost from $63,000 to $66,000 for Cabinet members; a jump from $65,000 to $75,000 for the Vice President, House speaker and chief justice; raises from $44,600 to $57,500 for circuit court judges and from $42,000 to $54,500 for district judges. About 2,500 such persons would get raises directly, but about 20,000 other high-level civil servants would also get raises, since their top pay can go up only when their supervisors' pay does.

After beating Allen's pay move, the Senate also killed, 55 to 42, an attempt by Quentin N. Burdick (D-N.D.), acting chairman of the Post Office and Civil Service Committee, to keep that committee alive instead of folding it into the Governmental Affairs Committee as part of the reorganization plan. The AFL-CIO had lobbied hard to keep the post office unit a separate committee.