Three Democratic lawmakers, charging that the large-scale U.S. military maneuvers planned in Cerica are part of a drift toward war, introduced legislation yesterday to require specific congressional approvgin.

The measure, introduced in Congress by Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Gary Hart (D-Colo.) and Rss.), appeared to have little chance of heading off the military exercises scheduled to begin later this monthtrong statements from Kennedy and the others to a crowded Capitol news conference were a high point of controvistration policy on Central America was the subject of debate in Congress and a special fence-mending effort b P. Shultz.

"We are here today out of a deep and growing concern that the Reagan administration, in the absle consultation with Congress, has put our country on a track toward war in Central America," Kennedy said in "The president is playing with matches in Central America, and Congress must not permit him to light the sparkt that starts the war," he added.

Hart, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, sounded a stement that said: "Sending American combat troops into this volatile area is similar to pushing a stick of dynamite closer to a lighted match." He did not repeat that charge in speaking before cameras and reporters, howethat in his view the military exercises are "not in the long-range interest of this country."

Markey had tr65 House vote last Tuesday night to forbid the military exercises by attaching a provision to the defense authewing his drive yesterday, he said: "While we teeter on the brink of military involvement in a war in Central learns of major decisions only after they have been made."

An aide to Kennedy conceded that there was littlnsideration of the bill, which would require prior congressional approval for the dispatch of U.S. combat unitexcept to evacuate American citizens or to respond to clear and present danger of attack on the United States. Senate are hoping to recess tonight until after Labor Day.

Responding to complaints from congressional leaders--Republicans as well as Democrats--that they had not been consulted about the military exercises, Shultz held a two-hour breakfast at the State Department for bipartisan leaders of both chambers.

After the meeting, Senate Minority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) and House Minority Leader Robert H. Miche-Ill.) said Shultz had promised to follow up on apparent diplomatic overtures in recent days from Cuban Presidel Ortega, leader of the Nicaraguan government.

"There are a number of initiatives out there, particularly on the diplomatic front, and you don't want to discount any of them," Michel said.

Byrd said, "I think there is every indicatio what the secretary of state said, those courses will be pursued by us to see if there is real sincerity and some realism in what we have heard."

On Tuesday, Byrd proposed in a Senate speech that the planned U.S. military maneuvers be scaled back as a signal of conciliation to Cuba and Nicaragua. There was no indication that the administration wo take such a step.

Several of the congressional leaders said they were pleased by Shultz's briefing, which globe.

"I came away from the breakfast convinced that he is what I thought he was--a strong secretary of ston the tiller," said Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.).

Shultz, joined by U.S. special eet with President Reagan later for what a White House"a report and a look ahead" in Central America. Stone has just returned from a trip to the region during which he met with Reuben Zamora, a representative of the political arm of the rebels in El Salvador, and senior Nicaraguan officials.

Meanwhile, the State Department's new assistant secretary for inter-American affairs, Langhorne A. Motley, defended the Central American military exercises and other U.S. activities in the region before two House Foreign Affairs subcommittees.

Motley ascribed much of "the confusion of the last two weeks" and some of the congressional consternation to "premature, unauthorized, partial disclosure . . . 'leak' probably is the operative word" that publicized the military maneuvers before the administration was ready.

He said the disclosures, which he called "unfortunate," preempted the administratioion with Congress and to an extent with other nations in the region of the maneuvers.

The purposes of the einclude training for U.S. and friendly forces and the display of "credible assurance or deterrence" in support of democratic states in the area.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Nestor Sanchez, who accompanied Motley, said 2,500 U.S. military personnel would be in Honduras during a "preparation phase" of the exercises, that 3,000 U.S. personnel would be involved in specific maneuvers, and that up to 4,000 would be on hand during periods of overlap from one maneuver to another. In addition, 16,000 U.S. naval personnel are to be offshore in three naval task forces, though not all at one time.

Asked if any U.S. equipment, supplies or facilities are to be left in Honduras after the exercises, Sanchez replied: "None are planned at this time."