Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), the powerful chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has been quietly telling committee members that the controversial Uniform Product Safety Act of 1987 is unlikely to be marked up before Congress reconvenes in January, congressional sources said yesterday.

The bill, H.R. 1115, was sent from the subcommittee on commerce, consumer protection and competitiveness to the full committee on Tuesday. Dingell said last week that he hoped the committee could finish with the bill before Congress leaves town for the holiday recess. However, he ran up against formidable opposition from Democrats on his own committee, as well as on the Judiciary Committee, which also must review the bill.

Dingell supports the bill, which its proponents say will provide uniform national standards by which manufacturers could make products and would lessen the number of product liability cases in the courts.

Although the bill is supported by a number of business groups, other business interests have said the bill is not tough enough. Meanwhile, consumer groups and trial lawyers say the bill will merely make it easier for manufacturers to escape liability for defective products.

Rep. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.), author of the bill, said yesterday that he believed it would take more than a week to address the problems that consumers, business, trial lawyers and labor have with the bill.

"It's a very controversial bill," Richardson said. "We need to try to achieve a consensus ... but it's going to take some time."

Richardson said that he believes the bill has enough support on the committee to win a vote now, but that there is "no need to put it through a bloodletting."

In addition, members of the House Judiciary Committee have complained that the bill should have been jointly referred to their committee.

"It's an offensive invasion of {the committee's} jurisdiction," said Julian Epstein, administrative assistant to Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.). "It's a major bill and a major reform in the law."

Noting that in the past bills dealing with product liability have had been jointly referred to the two committees, Epstein said that committee members are considering what action to take regarding the referral.

Dingell's committee will begin considering the bill Tuesday, according to his office. However, sources said the committee probably will not get beyond opening statements and will deal with more substantive issues in January.