Reid set this startling precedent, not to pass a crucial bill, but to prevent the Republicans from forcing a vote on the President's jobs bill. Why? Apparently to avoid having to admit that the Democrats do not have enough votes to pass the bill even by a majority vote. Why is that important? Apparently because the election theme for the next year is to be that the economy would have improved if the jobs bill had passed, and the only thing preventing passage of the jobs bill was Republican "no" votes.
A high-stakes play for a body that may be controlled by the other party after the November 2012 elections.