The hunt by the Bush administration and congressional leaders for a budget compromise is lurching into an uncertain direction as the two sides, their eyes on the calendar, search for a compromise.

The top five congressional leaders planned to meet again Wednesday with White House Chief of Staff John Sununu and two other high-ranking administration officials. They are seeking a package to cut the federal deficit by $50 billion next year and $450 billion more by 1995.The group met in the Capitol on Tuesday, a day after the 10-day-old negotiations at Andrews Air Force Base in nearby Maryland ended in stale-mate.

"It was reaffirmed on all sides that it continues to be our strong desire to reach agreement as soon as possible," said House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo.

Gephardt and White House budget director Richard Darman also planned to meet separately in the hope of making a breakthrough.

The effort continued as Oct. 1, the first day of fiscal 1991, rapidly approached. If no deal is in place by that day, the Gramm-Rudman law will chop about $100 billion out of the $1.2 trillion federal budget, a cut that all agree would stagger government operations.

Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., began gathering signatures among his colleagues on a letter promising support for President Bush if he vetoes a bill rolling back the Gramm-Rudman cuts, should one arise.

But some officials who asked to not be identified - including Republicans - said that because the effect of the Gramm-Rudman cuts would be so severe, it was not clear that Dole would get 34 signatures, the minimum needed to sustain a veto.