Congressional leaders and the White House may have a deal in principle to initiate a process to repeal the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, but Congress still needs to find the votes for that repeal. And those hopes took a hit today with Scott Brown’s opposition:

Sen. Scott Brown will vote against repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell when it comes up for a vote Thursday in the Senate Armed Services Committee, dealing a blow to gay rights advocates who were hoping the freshman Republican would make efforts to permit gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military bipartisan, Political Intelligence has learned [...]

Brown says that while he is keeping “an open mind” on future efforts, he believes the vote should be put off until the Pentagon has time to formulate a plan for implementing any new policy.

“I am keeping an open mind, but I do not support moving ahead until I am able to finish my review, the Pentagon completes its study, and we can be assured that a new policy can be implemented without jeopardizing the mission of our military,” Brown said in a statement provided to the Globe.

With the Secretary of Defense finding the delayed-implementation deal acceptable (although you can certainly tell that he’d rather complete the study prior to legislation), Brown’s position becomes less tenable. But he’s using the same basic rationale that Ben Nelson used when he announced his opposition, relying on the Pentagon study to continue bigotry. Whether Nelson will change his mind now that Gates has blessed the process is unclear. Ben Nelson joins Jim Webb, Robert Byrd, Bill Nelson and Evan Bayh as the key swing votes – three of those five are needed to pass the amendment on Thursday. It’s not a done deal in the House, either, BTW.

It was hard enough getting the White House on board with a change in policy – Carl Levin says they only got serious in “the last few days” – to see it all run aground in the Congress. Certainly, LGBT rights advocates have public opinion on their side – CNN reports that 78% of Americans favor the repeal of DADT. If Republicans want to defend the 20% side of an 80-20 issue and complain about the opposition “jamming through” a policy with a broad consensus, let ‘em. It would be a shame if pro-bigotry Democrats agreed with them.

UPDATE: Bill Nelson has come out in favor of the deal, meaning that Democrats need two of the remaining four undecideds left to win this vote:

Robert Byrd, Ben Nelson, Evan Bayh, Jim Webb

If Byrd is too sick to vote Thursday, that’s actually as good as him voting yes, because it would lower the threshold for majority-vote passage down to 14.