Antipoverty activists were aghast when Rep. Floyd Flake, D-N.Y., introduced a community development lending bill that rivaled President Clinton's proposal. What angered them most were the incentives the bill offered to commercial banks and thrifts for community lending.

But Rep. Flake, a three-term congressman from Queens, has never been a traditional sort of liberal. In 1991, he weathered similar criticism when he joined Rep. Tom Ridge, R-Pa., to win approval of the Bank Enterprise Act, which gives banks rebates against deposit insurance premiums for certain kinds of community lending activities.

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