Kyl puts a price in his ransom note

A month ago, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who is participating in the White House’s debt-reduction talks, said Republicans would expect $6 trillion in cuts over the next decade in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. The demand was laughably insane.

Yesterday, Kyl floated a new number.

The Senate’s No. 2 Republican on Tuesday spelled out GOP leaders’ conditions in the negotiations over reducing the federal deficit, offering the most specific outline of the party’s demands thus far.

Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) told reporters that Republicans want $2.5 trillion in budget savings in exchange for voting to raise the country’s $14.3 trillion borrowing limit through the end of next year.

“You’d have to do about $2.4 trillion in debt ceiling,” Kyl said, “which means you’d have to be about $2 1/2 trillion — at a minimum — in savings.”

Oddly enough, there are a few reasons to actually be mildly encouraged by this. For one thing, $2.5 trillion is not quite as preposterous as $6 trillion. For another, Kyl specifically used the word “savings.” In fact, in talking to reporters, he said the word more than once. Back in early May, the Senate Minority Whip was talking about trillions in “spending cuts,” and by referencing “savings,” the implication is that some of the debt-reduction effort can come through additional revenue, which would be a step in the right direction.

And perhaps most importantly, last month Kyl put a timeline on all of this — he wanted massive cuts over the next 10 years. Yesterday, the conservative senator said he wants trillions, but didn’t say how many years this could be stretched over.

That’s the good news. The bad news is, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said a month ago he expected about $2 trillion in exchange for doing the right thing. Yesterday, Kyl said $2.5 trillion. To this extent, we appear to be moving in the wrong direction.

It was also discouraging to hear Kyl say he expected to wrap up talks sometime in July. Boehner and President Obama signaled an agreement last week to complete this process by the Fourth of July in order to prevent panic in global markets. If the Senate Republican leader intends to blow off this deadline and push talks even further into July, it may prove to be very dangerous for all of us.

Of course, there’s also the problem Kyl is reinforcing the Republican Party’s hostage strategy, making clear that the GOP will cause a recession, on purpose, unless Democrats give Republicans massive spending cuts.

And then there’s the small matter of actually trying to find $2.5 trillion in budget savings that will satisfy Republicans enough that they won’t shoot their hostage.