Three Cabinet members assailed Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) yesterday, charging them with trying to kill the federal drug-testing program "so soon after a tragic train accident in their home state killed 16 innocent people in a case in which some train operators were shown to have used drugs."

Attorney General Edwin Meese III, Health and Human Services Secretary Otis R. Bowen and Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole, along with Office of Personnel Management Director Constance J. Horner, said in a statement that the two Maryland Democrats were trying to kill the program with "impossible procedural barriers."

"Sheer demagoguery," Hoyer responded late yesterday. "The people who promulgated that release show probable cause of being on something themselves. Our language simply protects the rights of the people being tested. I would be shocked if this irrational rhetoric were used by any responsible official at HHS or DOT who is familiar with the actual language."

Mikulski said, "Their attacks are as unfounded as their policies are flawed. We want to ensure accuracy, uniformity, and to use the best available technology to minimize false positives {in tests}. We want a drug-free workplace, but we want some standards.

"What happened out at Chase {in the Conrail-Amtrak collision} is that their tests were sloppy," she said.

After the Jan. 4 wreck, officials said traces of marijuana were found in the systems of the Conrail engineer and brakeman. But the validity of those tests was questioned after the Transportation Department said it was investigating the laboratory where they were conducted.

Yesterday's administration statement charged that Congress is on the verge of approving language that would have the effect of barring the executive branch from implementing its drug-testing program "for any job, no matter how sensitive or how seriously the public safety would be affected."

Congressional aides expressed concern that the administration had gone on the attack while negotiations were under way to resolve differences between House and Senate versions of language on allowable drug testing.

Robert E. Mills, clerk of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee handling the negotiations, said, "We responded to their concerns in writing this afternoon. We exempted the Department of Transportation. We accepted their language on a number of points. I am sitting here waiting to hear back from them, and they respond with a press release."

The fight centers on a new congressional compromise on drug testing that would impose strict conditions on the president's controversial program, almost certainly delaying its implementation and holding down the number of federal employes to be tested.

The compromise would require strict standards for conducting the tests, and would force the government to reissue its testing "guidelines" as regulations, a far more stringent and legally demanding process.

Hoyer is the sponsor of a House amendment to the fiscal 1987 supplemental appropriations bill that would bar use of the funds to implement testing. In the Senate version of the bill, testing could go forward after the administration certified that specific safety, quality-control and employe-rights standards had been met.

House and Senate conferees on the bill have been meeting for two weeks to resolve differences, and another session is scheduled for Tuesday.

Yesterday a written draft of several new concessions to administration complaints was presented to the Office of Personnel Management at about 3 p.m., according to Mills. The Cabinet members' news release was issued at 4:30 p.m.

Justice Department spokesman Patrick Korten said, "We had no response from the Hill when this statement was written. We were under the impression we were being jerked around."

"They want to kill drug testing," Korten said. "We are not going to buy into anything that exempts a select few here and there. We must have the latitude to determine who to test. We are not going to have one program for some and none for others."

Earlier yesterday, the Office of Management and Budget threatened a veto of the catch-all spending bill unless certain arms-control provisions are dropped. The OMB "strongly urged" that the drug-testing language be changed, but did not include it in the veto threat.

Congressional aides suggested that the Justice Department had not fully cleared its attack on Hoyer and Mikulski with the White House before it was issued.

A White House spokesman said he was aware that a statement was being issued. Korten said it is "ridiculous for anyone to imagine there would be any difference of opinion between the White House and Meese, chairman of the president's National Drug Policy Board; Bowen, the vice chairman; Dole, secretary of the lead agency for drug testing, and Horner, who is responsible for overall implementation."