Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) yesterday reaffirmed that hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of Appeals Court Judge Robert H. Bork will begin Sept. 15, with a target date of Oct. 1 for a committee vote on the nomination.

Biden rejected a Republican request that the hearings start a week earlier, but reiterated his pledge to expedite the hearings, which he predicted will take about two weeks.

He said he hopes the Judiciary Committee can vote on the nomination Oct. 1, but added that this "is not a commitment" and will depend on the pace of the hearings and the number of witnesses.

Biden also set Sept. 8 and 9 for hearings on the nomination of U.S. District Court Judge William S. Sessions to head the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He said Attorney General Edwin Meese III had indicated he wanted hearings on the Sessions nomination delayed until after the committee votes on Bork.

"I have a feeling the attorney general fears we will use Sessions as a ploy to delay on Bork," Biden said. "I can assure you that is not the case. If necessary, I would suspend them {the Sessions hearings} to go to Bork."

The schedule Biden announced came after weeks of preliminary skirmishing over the Bork nomination, with Senate Republicans accusing the Democratic majority of attempting to defeat the nomination through delays. Biden has denied the charge.

Meanwhile, two freshman Democratic senators rejected Republican arguments that Bork's political views should not be considered in the confirmation process.

"I join with those who argue that it is entirely proper, indeed incumbent upon the Senate, to examine carefully all aspects of a nominee's background and qualifications, including his or her political views and judicial and philosophical inclinations," Sen. Terry Sanford (D-N.C.) said in a Senate floor speech.

Sanford said he would not "apply a litmus test" to Bork's views on specific issues but views "his ideology to be the essential element of his qualifications for this lifetime appointment, and the president has been fairly explicit in saying ideology was a factor with him."

Sen. Wyche Fowler Jr. (D-Ga.), in another speech, said the Supreme Court should be filled with "men and women with sound judicial ideals, not political ideologues -- to the left or right -- with predetermined agendas."

"Constitutional adjudication does not, or should not, stem from theories concocted by the justices," Fowler added. "Any discernible pattern of writing decisions to conform to such an ideology must be carefully scrutinized."

Sanford and Fowler, who did not commit themselves on the Bork nomination, are among 11 freshman Senate Democrats whose votes will be critical in determining the outcome of the confirmation fight.

Meanwhile, the 1.7 million-member United Church of Christ said yesterday it will oppose Bork's nomination, saying Bork "seeks to minimize the Bill of Rights."

The organization, considered one of the more liberal mainstream churches, generally does not take positions on Supreme Court nominees, according to the Rev. James E. Lintner, director of the Washington office of the Office for Church in Society of the United Church of Christ.

Lintner said the church will urge its members to write senators in opposition to Bork.