As dawn came up yesterday, some senators were on the floor and others were bunked in a nearby makeshift barracks, but the doctors were restless and they weren't leaving the Senate reception room.

The doctors, a dozen or so, had been there through the night, elbow to elbow with the troop of other seekers waiting for their amendments to come to a vote, importuning sleepy legislators who shuffled in and out of the chamber.

The lobbyists from the American Medical Association, the all-world champion distributor of political campaign money, were there to see that the proposal of Sen. James A. McClure (R-Idaho) got through. The measure would wipe out the Federal Trade Commission's power to pursue violations of antitrust and consumer protection laws by health professionals.

The AMA rammed its legislation through the House earlier in this lame-duck session, and now its operatives were at the Senate door, ready to work their same magic. That's where Sen. Warren Rudman (R-N.H.), an independent-minded freshman, stepped in.

On a 15-to-14 vote in committee this week, Rudman got less sweeping language inserted into the continuing resolution. Now, at 6 a.m. in a weary Senate, the doctors were back and Rudman was on his feet again and his language was a stirring denunciation of the idea of special treatment for the healers.

"For the first time in 20 years, doctors are making house calls. They made house calls in the Dirksen Building, in the Russell Building. They are so concerned about our health that the reception room is packed with them, and I say we ought to give the American people a break," Rudman said.

"As they trudge down the steps, discouraged and disheartened because we did the right thing, as they get into their Mercedes and Porsches and drive back to their suites in the Madison, let us give the American people a break."

Rudman then moved to table the McClure amendment. The vote was 59 to 37 against McClure, and for the first time in recent recall the vaunted AMA was reeling from severe legislative contusions.

The original Rudman language prevailed, leaving the FTC with its powers to probe health industry pricing practices (the House later dropped its language).

It was a major victory for a rookie senator, but then the AMA had never counted on the likes of a Warren Rudman. He got interested in the health-competition issue when he was state attorney general.

His view is clear: "I've always felt competition has brought us better products . . . .There are 950,000 people in New Hampshire who will be sick from time to time, and that is their interest in this. I can't see the plight of the doctors is so severe."

One other thing that might have made a difference: Rudman is one of the few U.S. senators -- perhaps the only one -- who rejects money from political action committees. He's free, he said later yesterday, and he loves it.

The battle over the FTC and the doctors wasn't the only thing that wore down tempers and brought the influence-peddlers swarming to the Senate as its nocturnal ordeal went on through the day yesterday.

There were environmentalists, chasing after a nuclear waste disposal bill. There were farm lobbyists, scoping out the action that never came on an emergency agriculture bill. There were even a couple of former senators, John Durkin of New Hampshire and William Hathaway of Maine, scoping out Lord knows what.

And there were coal miners in hard hats, rubbing shoulders with the designer-clothed professionals in the reception room, lobbying against more money for the Clinch River breeder reactor in Tennessee. The miners lost, when $227 million more stayed in the continuing resolution by a 49-to-48 vote. Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.) twisted arms and got four previous foes of the nuclear reactor to switch sides. That carried the day. Or night.

Baker was having other troubles, however, which led his Republicans to caucus during the evening to talk about the fits they seemed to be giving each other over the gasoline tax provision of the highway bill. The problem: the filibuster being led by Sens. Gordon Humphrey (N.H.) and Jesse Helms (N.C.) was leaving large dollops of egg on the collective face of the GOP.

The Republicans went behind locked doors and had at it. Some participants said it was the "most frank" and "most extraordinary" caucus they'd been party to.

The majority lectured the minority about people who thought they were bigger than their party, bigger than the institution.

For the nonce, it appeared that the lectures didn't take. Humphrey and Helms were unrelenting and the logjam remained.

Not far away, Democrats napped. Signs on the Mike Mansfield Room, where cots had been installed, allowed "senators only."

And later in the day, as the Senate continued its gyrations, there was holiday jollity. Rep. Wendell Bailey (R-Mo.) circulated on the House floor with a large Christmas basket, handing out gifts of corncob pipes that his district has made famous.

Everything was greased, just like it's supposed to be when time runs short at the end of a session. Sen. Wendell H. Ford (D-Ky.) got the Senate to pass a bill authorizing federal purchase of the Kentucky home of the late Alben Barkley, who was Harry S Truman's vice president and Democratic majority leader of the Senate.

The idea was to rush it to the House and slide it right through -- and who could object to a spending authorization of up to $700,000 for creating a new national historical site honoring a distinguished politician?

Well, the Democratic congressman who represents Barkley's hometown, Paducah, did object. And that killed the bill when Democratic supporters tried to call it to a quick vote in the House this week.

Rep. Carroll Hubbard Jr. complained that the Barkley property was assessed at about a sixth of Ford's authorizing figure and he wondered why there was all this rush. What he didn't tell the House was that he and Ford, although both Democrats, are bitter political foes.

As the House passed and sent to the Senate President Reagan's legislation providing favorable trade treatment for countries in the Caribbean Basin, Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) won approval of an amendment to preserve protections for the U.S. tuna industry. Ralston Purina Co., which produces Chicken of the Sea tuna, is headquartered in St. Louis.

However, an attempt by the delegate from the Virgin Islands, Ron de Lugo, to place some restrictions on rum imports, which would compete with rum from the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, was rejected, 227 to 171. A similar amendment by Rep. Larry Hopkins (R-Ky.) to protect U.S. tobacco was rejected by voice vote, despite Hopkins' plea for support of the "God-fearing, honest, hard-working" U.S. tobacco grower.

Before the bill got to the floor, the Ways and Means Committee added provisions protecting the U.S. leather goods, shoe, textile, work-glove and luggage industries.