In its fading hours, when fatigue strained the sentinels and the traders' pulses throbbed feverishly, the 95th Congress took on the air of a great, babbling commodities bazaar.

The centerpiece in a complex brew of politics and protection was a bill to support sugar prices - that is, guarantee domestic producers an income and raise the amount paid by the housewife.

That bill finally died in the house Sunday, but before it did, it had attracted a small army of friends:

The steel industry, a major user of tin, supported an amendment to put 35,000 tons of tin from the U.S. stockpile onto the world market and depress the price.

Copper people are quietly supporting the tin sale in the belief that as President Carter suggested earlier, proceeds would be used to buy . . . copper for the stockpile.

Israel, needing industrial diamonds and wanting to drive down the high world price, sought an amendment to sell diamonds from the U.S. stockpile.

Textiles, wanting protection from imports, thought about typing a tariff amendment onto sugar.

Corn-sweetener people, happy with the Senate bill, turned sour in the House and helped bring down sugar's adjournment.

It was a flurry reminiscent of the Smooth-Hawley protectionist days of the 1930s or the most recent session-ending haggling over tariffs, and there was more in those final hours of the 95th Congress.

Cattle-state forces, led by Sen. Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. (D-Tex.), won passage of a bill to put new limits on beef imports and protect cattlemen from fluctuating prices. It could mean higher consumer costs and a presidential veto looms.

Textiles, meanwhile, with Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C) as their champion, looked away from the sugar bowl and got their protection bill passed separately. It would prohibit the United States from making any concessions on textiles at the multination trade talks in Geneva. It faces an almost certain veto. If not, your pants might cost more.

Wheat was on the scene, but it didn't do as well. A bill that would have had the United States put at least 3 million tons of wheat into an international food reserve died in the House when its sponsors failed, for lack of time, to squeeze it onto the debate calendar.

Actually, wheat-growers were not enthusiastic about the bill - fearing a reserve would depress their prices - and Republicans absolutely did not want it.

A late-hour survivor, however, was an agricultural trade bill to help American farmers and livestock breeders move more of their goods into overseas markets.

In the aftermath of this congressional spree, an aide to Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho), spiritual father of the sugar-in alliance, said: "It was becoming commodity heaven around here."

"We had visions of cheap little tin wind-up soldiers, filled with 16-cent sugar, marching down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, waving little flags announcing a waiver on countervailing duties."

Oh, yes - the countervailing duties. That was a come-on added to the sugar bill for president Carter by Long (D-La.). It would have waived the collection of duties on some foreign goods - a waiver, Carter wanted to help the U.S. position at the Geneva talks.

After the sugar confection collapsed in the House, administration lobbyists scurried in search of another sure-to-pass "vehicle" to which the waiver could be tied. Time ran out, however, and the 95th Congress became history.

No one-not even native Americans - really pretends to understand fully the manic workings of the final hours of a Congress hell-bent on adjournment.

It is more pzzling to Carlos Ituralde, the ambassador from Bolivia. He was working all last week to make Congress understand that his country, so heavily dependent on its tin income, didn't cotton to the idea of the United States puting 35,000 new tons into he world market.

Tin accounts for more than half of Bolivia's foreign earnings. The situation is so sensitive - life and death, as Iturralde says - that every 10-cent-per pound drop in the world price means $7 million to Bolivia.

But disposal of some surplus tin from the U.S. stockpile would suit American steel makers just fine. With world prices above $6.50 a pound, any market depression is to their benefit.

So with interests of that magnitude at stake, the wedding of sugar and tin takes on a different hue - albeit a sometimes confusing hue.

"I just didn't understand how tin got incorporated into surgar. That's incredible. Isn't this called Christmas-treeing?" asked the ambassador.

Tin started off rather simply. The United States, joining an international in agreement in 1976, decided it would be good policy to contribute 5,000 tons from its 200,500 ton stockpile to an international reserve that would serve as a price stabilizer.

Legislation was introduced with administration support but it got caught in a jurisdictional free-all between three House committees - International Relations, Armed Services, Banking - which had an interest in the issue.

Finally, International Relations, with Rep. Jonathan BIngham (D-N.Y.) acting as point man, ended up in the lead role. Each committee got a crack at the bill and legislation was ready for floor action by June.

It contained some qualifiers, but basically it would have sent 5,000 tons of U.S. stockpile tin to the buffer and put another 30,000 tons up for sale on the world market.

That's when the tin bill's trouble really became serious. Copper got into the act, the bill became controversial and Bingham was wary fo trying for a floor vote.

Friends of copper - legislators from Arizona, New Mexico, Montona, Utah, Colorado - wanted language that would require use of the tin-sales money to buy copper for the strategic stockpile. That would help U.S. copper companies.

The administration ahd suggested that it would move in that direction. Coincidentally, the suggestion came at about the time the White House was pressing hard for the vote of Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) on the Panama Canal treaties.

Both the White House and DeConcini deany a deal was cut - DeConcini's vote in exchange for the copper buy. But some legislators believed there was a deal and the idea of tin-for-copper began to acquire an aroma, per companies.

Meanwhile, the Senate was also grappling with the tin issue. Sen. Gary hart (D-Colo.) came up with a disposal plan. But copper supporters blocked floor action until Hart would consent ot language directing purchase of copper with the tin money.

Then Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wis.), leary of that approach, blocked floor consideration of the bill. Bingham appealed, but Proxmire wouldn't relent.

By late Semptember, Bingham had soothed enough passions in the House to risk putting his bill to a vote. It passed easily and Bingham turned again to the Senate.

He called Church, an internationalist who thought tin disposal was in the U.S. interest. With Proxmire still objecting to the Hart package, Bingham needed some means of bringing the House-passed bill before the Senate.

Church agreed to tack the House legislation onto a pending deep seabed mining bill, scaling back the amount of tin to be disposed of to quiet the critics.

But that upset the steel industry, Steel insisted that the 30,000 tons should be put onto the world market to cut prices here, save jobs and protect the dollar. Steel wanted that language in the bill.

So Church took another tack, agreeing to the 30,000-ton disposal but dodging the copper-buy issue by putting the tin-sale money into an escrow account.

Church missed his chance to tie tin to deep seabed mining. He looked for another vehicle. It turned out to be his own sugar bill. The more he looked at it, the more he liked the idea of joingin tin and sugar.

Steel wanted the tin disposal. But there would be no tin disposal unless steel got behind the sugar bill, Church and his aides reasoned, and steel-state senators might be more inclined to go for the sugar bill which Church was supporting in part because it helped the beet-sugar growers in his state.

"Politically, it got another segment of the country for the sugar bill," explained one of Church's assistants.

Sugar was on center stage because Carter needed authority to enforce provisions of an international sugar agreement, aimed as with tin at stabilizing prices and supply - although plainly, it would mean higher supermarket prices.

The sugar bill had produced a dispute between consuming and producing interests, and more directly, between the administration, the House and the Senate. The administration basically wanted 13.5 cents per pound as the price goal; the House, 16 cents; the Senate, 17.

Sugar people liked the Senate bill more than the House version. The administration liked neither. Other features in the bills would have altered prices and the means for achieving them through supports and subsidies to producers.

The haggling in the House and Senate, and in an eventual House-Senate conference, was over price and ways of achieving it. The sugar debate quickly became a case of whose interest was being protected.

Church, who wanted to combine tin and sugar, talked that over with Long, the Finance Committee chairman who was overseeing the sugar bill on the floor. Long, whose state also has large sugar interests, liked the idea of tin helping sugar.

So at 1:30 a.m. last Thursday, Church, not alterting the copper senators for fear of new demands for copper-purchase language, unveiled his tin proposal on the Senate floor.

The skids were greased with Long, who, playing the affable straight-man, rose to ask the appropriate questions.

"Does not the administration strongly favor the amendment?" Long asked.

"The administration does indeed favor the amendment," Church said.

"This will help reduce the cost of living. Is that correct?" Long asked.

"Yes," said Church.

"I will accept the amendment. I hope the Senate will agree to the amendment," Long said.

Not long after that, voting 50 to 22, the Senate passed the sugar-tin bill and sent it to conference with the House.

After about four hours, conferees reached an agreement on a final sugar bill around 8 a.m. Sunday. The conference report passed the Senate early in the afternoon, but there was trouble again.

This time, corn people were unhappy. They argued that the conferee's agreement on price-support payments gave sugar cane and beet producers an unfair advantage over corn, which is used widely as an industrial sweetener.

And still unhappy, doing all it could to defeat the agreement, was a so-called industrial users group - soft drink makers, candy and baking companies - which wanted no legislation at all if it meant higher prices.

Among them was the country's largest sugar, the Coca-Cola Co., based in Georgia, President Carter's home state. The industrial users kept a low profile but were actively making contact with friendly legislators on Capitol Hill throughout the debate.

"Under the formula, the corn people would get no payments," one of Long's advisers said. "They finally gave up and began pressuring the House to go against this."

In those chaotic last hours - steel pushing for sugar, corn pushing against it and the administration's lobbying effort limited by attention to a variety of other pending issues sugar went down for the count.

By 17 votes, the bill was killed in the House shortly before adjournment. Sugar was lost. Tin was lost. Carter's countervailing-duty waiver was lost. Steel and copper didn't get their way.

With the appearance of 30,000 new tons of tin on the world market foreclosed, Bolivia rested a little more comfortably. But Ambassador Iturralde knew the issue would surface again.

And sugar, surely would be back. Already this week, Sen. Long and Rep. Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.), the Agriculture Committee chairman, and Rep. Al Ullman (D-Ore.), the Ways and Means chairman, were urging Carter to move on his own to boost domestic sugar prices to help the industry.

For now, a sugar bill was dead but the mourning was not universal. Someone else - not Bolivia, not steel, but market speculators and metals traders - had a field day with every move the Congress made.

On Sept. 26, the day after the House passed its tin bill, the London market tin price fell from $6.27 to $6.19 a pound. By Oct. 12 it had inched back to $6.98, but on the 13th, the day after Senate approval of the bill, the price dropped to $6.63. Monday, after the House said goodbye to sugar and tin, the London price was up to $7.06.

With the appearance of 30,000 new tons of tin on the world market foreclosed, Bolivia rested a little more comfortably. But Ambassador Iturralde knew the issue would surface again.

And sugar, surely, would be back. Already this week, Sen. Long and Rep. Thomas S. Foely (D-Wash.), the Agriculture Committee chairman, and Rep. Al Ullman (D-Ore.), the Ways and Means chairman, were urging Carter to move on his own to boost the domestic sugar prices to help the industry.

For now, a sugar bill was dead but the mourning was not universal. Someone else - not Bolivia, not steel, but market speculators and metals traders - had a field day with every move the Congress made.

On Sept. 26, the day after the House passed its tin bill, the London market tin price fell from $6.27 to $6.19 a pound. By Oct. 12 it had inched back to $6.98, but on the 13th, the day after Senate approval of the bill, the price dropped to $6.63. Monday, after the House said goodbye to sugar and tin, the London price was up to $7.06.