WASHINGTON  - US President Barack Obama urged Congress Saturday to quickly pass an extension of the payroll tax cut to prevent a tax increase on 160 million Americans.

"Now is not the time for self-inflicted wounds to our recovery," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "Now is the time for common-sense action. And this tax cut is common-sense."

The proposed measure was at the center of a heated political battle last December, when after weeks of wrangling Democrats and Republicans agreed to extend the two-percent tax cut, which had been due to expire at the end of the year, just for two months.

Now economists warn that if the measure is allowed to expire at the end of the month, it would raise taxes on about 160 million workers.

In addition, three million people could lose their jobless benefits if unemployment insurance is not renewed.

Republicans, however, have been loath to give the Democratic president anything that might be construed as a legislative victory ahead of the November 2012 presidential election, which they hope will see Republicans reclaim the White House.

"Congress needs to stop this middle class tax hike from happening," Obama said. "Period. No drama. No delay. And no ideological side issues that have nothing to do with this tax cut."

The president urged Americans to contact their members of Congress and ask them to expend the tax cut as soon as possible.

I hope you'll pick up the phone, send a tweet, write an email, and tell your representative that they should get this done before it gets too late.

"Tell them not to stand in the way of the recovery," he said. "Tell them to just do their job. That's what our middle class needs. That's what our country needs."