Attorney General Edwin Meese III yesterday waded into the partisan warfare over the disputed November election in Indiana's 8th Congressional District, denouncing the "flagrant manipulation of the election process" by Democrats in refusing to seat Republican Richard D. McIntyre.

"I am, quite frankly, appalled at the action of the House majority in excluding a person duly elected by the people of the 8th Congressional District of Indiana and duly certified under the laws of that state," Meese wrote in a letter to House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.).

"That sort of flagrant manipulation of the election process flies in the face of every consideration of federalism, decency and good government, and I applaud the strong and principled stand you and your colleagues have taken in opposition," Meese wrote.

Meese's letter was sent after Michel called the attorney general to complain that the Justice Department had filed a brief urging the Supreme Court not to consider a suit by the state of Indiana that urges McIntyre's seating.

House Republicans were stunned when they found out about the Justice Department action. It occurred as they were challenging the seating of Rep. Frank McCloskey (D-Ind.), declared a four-vote winner over McIntyre by a House task force. Earlier, the state twice certified McIntyre as winner.

Republicans have charged that the Democrats "stole" the seat by failing to count all of the ballots. Democrats contend that the recount by the General Accounting Office was fair.

"Michel's language was fairly strong," an aide to the minority leader said of the call to Meese.

In his letter, Meese said that the Justice Department is required to respond to the suit and that the brief focused only on the jurisdictional question of whether the issue fell outside the high court's responsibilities.

Republicans, whose delaying tactics shut down the House Thursday, plan to offer a motion next Tuesday to vacate the contested seat. On Wednesday, Democrats said they plan to try seating McCloskey.