(CNN) - Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, announced Wednesday that she now supports a repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, making four Republican Senators in all who have publically endorsed the end of the 17-year-old prohibition against openly gay soldiers from serving in the U.S. military.
In a statement, Snowe said she came to the conclusion after "careful analysis," but also stressed the importance of allowing time to implement a plan for repeal.
Snowe's announcement means, in theory, supporters of a repeal have more than the 60 senators needed to end debate.
Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska and Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts, are the other GOP senators who have voiced support for the repeal. In her statement, Snowe joins Murkowski and Brown who have said their vote is contingent on the Senate finishing work on both the tax cut legislation and the bill to fund the government.
The House passed a stand-alone bill to repeal the policy Wednesday, putting increased pressure on Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, to bring a vote on the measure to the floor before the end of this Congress.
Snowe also criticized the Senate for the delay of the defense authorization bill. Originally, a repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was included as part of the Defense Authorization Bill – a strategy supporters of repeal hoped would speed passage, as senators who oppose repeal would be forced to make a politically risky vote against military policy.
"It is undeniable that we could have avoided this situation, where three weeks before the end of the legislative session we are without a national defense authorization bill for the first time in 48 years," Snowe said in a statement. "It was a misguided judgment to hold up the critical defense authorization bill."
Snowe's announcement came about the same time Wednesday that Sens. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, and John McCain, R-Arizona, the chairman and ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, announced an agreement on a defense bill, stripped of controversial provisions, that the senators think can be unanimously approved by the Senate in the coming days. The move could clear the way for Snowe to vote for the separate bill repealing "don't ask, don't tell."
The open question is whether there will be time to do so, with 10 days until Christmas and the Senate's plate already full with the START treaty and an enormous, controversial spending bill.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Sen. Snowe's vote on "don't ask, don't tell" was contigent on the passage of the Defense Authorization bill.