Labor Secretary William E. Brock yesterday castigated the House-passed trade legislation as "a grab bag of every protectionist bill that has come along since 1912" and said that the Reagan administration is unlikely to cooperate with Senate efforts to pass a moderate trade measure.
"Anything the Senate does would be an improvement" on the bill passed overwhelmingly by the Democratic-controlled House last week, Brock said in an interview.
He added that there appeared little chance of getting "an honorable compromise" on trade legislation if the House Democratic leadership "abandons any lip service to the national interest in order to achieve a political objective."
Senate Republicans and Democrats hope to pass trade legislation that will be more moderate than the House bill, although it likely will be less free-trade than the administration would like.
"Hopefully, we can screw it up in the parliamentary process so they get so confused they don't know where they are going and we don't get it out of Congress," Brock said at a breakfast meeting with reporters.
"The Senate is a wonderful maze," added Brock, who 18 months ago, as the U.S. trade representative, helped steer a moderate trade bill through the shoals of a protectionist-minded Congress.
"It can really mess things up," he said. "And that's what we've got to do."
He said he believes the administration should take this position because the protectionist nature of the House-passed bill makes it unlikely the end product will be useful.
He attacked the House Democratic leadership, which pushed the bill through committee and the floor, for "demagoging the issue. Everyone knows it's a bad bill. That's the demogoguery.
"It is a stinking exercise in just raw politics," he added.
Brock, former head of the Republican National Committee, said it is "a jackass process" to take an issue of vital national importance and use it simply "to try to pick up a few House districts in November."
If a trade bill gets through Congress, President Reagan will have no trouble vetoing it, Brock said. But he acknowledged that a veto on trade, in the face of a $148.5 billion trade deficit last year, could be "dangerous" for some Republicans.
"We'd win" an override vote, he said, "but it would be very painful. I don't want to give them [the Democrats] that field day."