BUILDING ON A SENSE OF COMMON PURPOSE…. Since I just got finished highlighting the health care idiocy of one far-right Republican lawmaker, I guess it’s only fair that I also point to some surprisingly encouraging comments from another far-right Republican lawmaker on the same subject.

Elana Schor noted Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Texas) appearance at today’s health care event at the White House. Now, Barton, the senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is not exactly a “moderate.” So when he made these remarks, it was a very pleasant surprise.

This is a different approach [than the one embraced by the Clinton White House]. [Sen. Chuck] Grassley and [Sen. Max] Baucus working together in the Senate is great … we can get a different result. You can’t oppose the president’s principles. It’s in the details, though, and how you put the plan together. But this is a good step.” [emphasis added]

I don’t doubt that Barton will have some significant concerns about the eventual plan, but his concession effectively means that even conservative Republicans are prepared to accept the need for a reform initiative, and work towards a solution.

This may not sound like much of a breakthrough, but let’s not forget that for most of the last several years, Republicans have argued that the United States already has a universal health care system — if you get sick, and you don’t have insurance, just go to the emergency room. For everyone else, the free market will work its magic and everything will be fine.

Today, however, a very conservative lawmaker from Texas announced, “You can’t oppose the president’s principles.” I suspect the Limbaugh wing of the party won’t care for that, and maybe Barton will have to walk this one back, but in the meantime, it suggests there’s at least a shred of common purpose here.

It’s a foundation — Democrats and Republicans can at least agree that there’s a problem and it needs a solution, soon. It’s not much, but given Republican obstinacy of late, it’s something to build upon.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.