Washington — Almost no one in this capital city wanted a post-election meeting of the old Congress, and the lame duck's three weeks stay did little to convert the critics.
''We shouldn't have even had a lame-duck session,'' said a weary Senate minority leader Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, as the upper chamber struggled with filibusters and delays that kept them working into Christmas week.
President Reagan, who called for the session, had to accept a major setback when Congress balked at his MX-missile program. It was the first tangible sign of a more skeptical view of the defense buildup, and could signal the mood of the new Congress.
At the same time, both houses had to give up jobs programs, ranging from $1.2 billion to $5.4 billion. But leaders in both parties are leaving no doubt that they will return next year with new proposals.
The lame duck produced a major nuclear-waste bill that sets up a national effort to dispose of radioactive wastes, and it appears that the Senate may yet break through a filibuster and pass a nickel-a-gallon tax on gasoline to pay for highway building and repair.
The lame duck also passed a convoluted pay increase which gives members of the House, along with judges and top government workers, a 15 percent raise, but does not increase senators' pay. Instead, senators will be allowed to earn unlimited amounts from outside sources and speaking engagements.
While the lame duck's achievements may be few, it also managed to fend off much of the special-interest legislation often typical of final legislative sessions. Among those urged by lobbyists who jammed the hallways were a bill to release doctors and lawyers from oversight by the Federal Trade Commission failed, a proposal to exempt the National Football League from antitrust laws, and a bailout for the lumber industry.