If only he'd offered his community development bank plan sooner.

President Clinton has been dogged during the last several months by accusations of drift and incoherence in his domestic agenda. But when he unveiled his plan July 15 to help financial institutions that want to provide credit in poor areas shunned by mainline banks, lawmakers leaped to applaud.

House Banking Committee Chairman Henry B. Gonzalez, D-Tex., said the community development bank plan shows that Clinton "clearly understands that impoverished communities must have access to affordable credit if they are ever to lift themselves out of the poverty trap."

On the other side of Capitol Hill, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Donald W. Riegle Jr., D-Mich., lauded Clinton's "bold initiatives ... to rebuild our distressed communities."

Despite the generally positive reviews, the two banking leaders tempered their praise by saying the Clinton plan may not go far enough. Gonzalez called the proposal "a very good start," but said he wants to increase the amount of money available for the program. Likewise, Riegle said, "Although we will need more funding to fully address the problems of these communities, these initiatives are a good start."

The plan would be funded with a relatively paltry, by Washington standards, $382 million over four years.

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