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Facing a nearly solid blockade of GOP opposition, President Clinton drew a line in the political sand and proposed increasing the minimum wage by 90 cents to $5.15 an hour over a two year period. In a Rose Garden ceremony, Clinton said that without the increase, the real buying power of the minimum wage would fall to a 40-year low next year. To counter this, Clinton proposed two hikes of 45 cents each over the current level of $4.25 an hour. But even as he released the plan, the Administration braced for what will surely be a bloody battle. House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- a former economics professor -- said bluntly, "I personally am very skeptical about it and think it will destroy jobs, especially for minority teenagers." House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas has said he would like to abolish the minimum wage altogether. "The White House is looking to appeal to its base and to Democrats who have wandered," saysTIME Washington correspondent Suneel Ratan. "They are trying to send a clear signal that the Democratic party is on their side on economic issues."