NASHUA, N.H., FEB. 1 -- Vice President Bush, opening a new front in his fight with Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) for the Republican presidential nomination, today belittled the role of Congress and its leaders and blamed Congress for the federal budget deficit.

Striking the theme of his final week of campaigning before Monday's Iowa caucuses, Bush told a Rotary Club luncheon here: "Congress is part of the problem, not part of the answer."

"I made more decisions running the Central Intelligence Agency and intelligence community in a week than I did in four years as a congressman from Texas," he said.

"A president's got to consider the national interest," he added. "Members of Congress have to consider -- by virtue of their job -- the special interests. A president leads, and I found as a member of Congress to some degree you follow. And as one humorist put it, it's hard to look up to a leader who keeps his ear to the ground. And there's something to that."

Bush did not mention Dole by name, but the vice president's aides said the speech was a response to Dole's claim that his Senate tenure has given him "hands-on" experience in government.

Bush campaign officials are expected to carry the attack directly to Dole this week. Last Saturday in Iowa, the Bush campaign circulated a letter from former representative Cooper Evans (R-Iowa), a Bush supporter, that said of Dole, "No one who has spent 27 years in Congress is one of us! There is no more ineffective organization than the U.S. Congress."

Dole called Bush's remarks a "typical cheap shot" at the close of a campaign and said President Reagan owed more to the GOP leadership in Congress than he did to Bush.

"We've provided the leadership for Ronald Reagan," Dole said. "{Bush} is out there running on the Reagan record. Who does he think got it through the Congress -- George Bush? He didn't do anything . . . . Check what success Ronald Reagan had in the Senate without George Bush's vote, without his help . . . . We did it all without him."

Polls show the federal deficit to be the top concern among voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, and Bush laid the blame for the huge deficits of the Reagan presidency on Congress. The congressional budget process "is a mess," he said, "a scandal that makes a mockery of spending restraint." He pointed out that Congress had not passed a single appropriations bill last year and called this "purely and simply a failure of congressional leadership." Reagan has repeatedly tried to influence Congress -- often successfully -- on spending priorities. In the seven years of the Reagan presidency, the White House has never submitted a budget to Congress proposing to pay for all the services it wanted.

Bush seeks line-item veto authority for the president to control spending, something Dole also supports. But Bush has not said which programs he would eliminate if he had such authority. While calling for deficit reductions, he has pledged not to raise taxes and to continue the defense buildup. He has also called for new spending on education, space, drug enforcement, the environment and other programs.

Bush said today he disagreed with Dole's plan for a one-year across-the-board spending freeze because he favors more "flexibility" to add spending for needed programs.