WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole said today debate will begin Monday on the Supreme Court nomination of Robert H. Bork, a schedule that would allow a vote by next Wednesday.
Dole (R-Kan.) said no specific time for a vote has been set, telling reporters, "We're trying to get something worked out. In any event, we'll start (debate) Monday."
A number of Republicans have said they wanted three days to make their case in favor of Bork. That would permit a vote Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) has been urging a unanimous Senate agreement to vote at a specific time.
Senate Democrats have been calling for a quick vote while the Republicans have been arguing for more time, some saying it could take until Oct. 23 to make the case for Bork.
But while the opening day for debate had been unsettled, there appears to be no doubt about the outcome. Fifty-four senators have announced their opposition to Bork, while just 36 have said they support him. Ten remain undecided.
Conservative groups supporting Bork had urged his Senate supporters to delay the vote because they wanted time to run a new round of advertisements in possibly a dozen states.
Meanwhile today, White House Chief of Staff Howard H. Baker Jr. denied a broadcast report that he is considering leaving his post amid conservative criticism of his handling of the Bork nomination.
"Absolutely not," Baker told reporters as he left the White House for a meeting. "I'm going to be here to lock the door and turn out the lights."
White House Deputy Press Secretary Leslye Arsht, asked about the criticisms of Baker, a former Republican leader of the Senate, said, "Senator Baker is enjoying his work and has the full support of the President."
Sen. James A. McClure (R-Ida.), a member of a group of conservative GOP senators who met at the White House with President Reagan and his chief of staff today, said Baker "is doing an extremely tough job and he is doing it effectively."
McClure added, however, "We are going to continue to try to have some input on what the White House does."