Unlike most mortals, members of Congress have the priviledge of correcting slips of the tongue, misstatements of fact and other boo-boos they commit in the heat or confusion of public debates before their mistakes can be printed for all the world to see.

During a recent House debate on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, for example, Appropriations Chairman Jamie Whitten (D-Miss.) jumped all over Rep. Berkley Bedell (D-Iowa) for criticizing the project. Bedell's objections were justified: The price tag on the controversial, 219-mile canal-and-river network has soared from $300 million to $3 billion over the past eight years.

Whitten's remarks could have been interpreted as a veiled threat against future public works projects in Bedell's district. But when the Congressional Record appeared the next day Whitten's sarcastic comments had been excised.

During the same debate, Rep. David Bowen (D-Miss.) noted that the Louisville & Nashville Railroad opposes the waterway, which would parallel its rail line. "I do not blame it," said Bowen in floor debate, referring to the railroad. "If I ran the L&N Railroad, I would have to oppose it also."

Evidently fearing he appeared to be supporting the railroad's antiwaterway position, Bowen amended his remarks to: "This is a misguided policy. This waterway would be an asset to this railroad as such waterways have been to other rail lines."

And Rep. Jack Edwards (R-Ala.), who stated flatly on the floor of the House that he would not support an extension of the waterway from Demopolis to Mobile, "extended" his spoken remark to read that he wouldn't support the extension "based on what is known at this time."