ON WEDNESDAY evening, the Senate Appropriations Committee slipped a hefty congressional pay raise into a bill and whistled it off to the floor. It was the same raise they said last week they wouldn't dream of giving themselves -- amounting to more than $10,000, for a total salary of $70,900. This, or any other increase that could squeak through Congress in these final hours, should be vetoed by the president.

Often the parties to these actions will retreat when the spotlight of publicity is turned on them, which could explain all the denials that were emanating from these halls when the first report of the payraise maneuvers appeared. And during the day yesterday, many senators were quick to rise in scripted indignation and well-rehearsed shock at the very thought of such a selfish, stealthy, wasteful act occurring in their midst. After all, members of the House had gone to considerable -- well, modest -- pains to include language specifically banning any such congressional pay raise.

So how does all this come out in the end? In the frantic scrambling to break stereophonic filibusters, enact continuing resolutions and pack up -- in many instances for the last time -- it can be quite a job discovering exactly how much money the lawmakers finally do scoop up at the cashier's window before they head for home. This time, maybe the glare has proved too bright for such a plan to get all the way through Congress. But until the crack of that final gavel, don't be too sure.