A bit of history I didn’t know:

In 1979, Rep. Richard Gephardt (D) of Missouri proposed setting the debt limit automatically at the level projected by the most recent budget resolution. The rule, still in effect, allows for the debt limit to be raised without the House having to take an unpopular stand-alone vote.

In 1995, then-majority House Republicans waived the Gephardt rule. They refused to raise the debt limit in a bid to force President Clinton to accept spending cuts — prompting two government shutdowns.

So in 1978, Dick Gephardt quite sensibly tied the debt ceiling to the budget: Once Congress decided how much we were going to tax, spend and borrow, the Treasury Department was authorized to carry out those instructions. In 1995, House Republicans wanted leverage over President Bill Clinton, so they brought the debt ceiling back. It’s easier to get people to listen to you if you threaten to destroy their credit rating if they don’t. And now, in 2011, they’re doing it again.